Five Poems by Gaylord Brewer

More Honored in the Breach:
Eating the Rabbit’s Head,
Then Again Meditating upon the Subject

The rabbit dinner was a rowdy déjà vu
of drink and appetite, ideas, jokes poorly
translated. Days following, no one

discovered my odd package in the freezer’s
corner. Nobody cared, nobody
asked. Cared for what? Asked of what?

Alone in the house, I roasted
the head in a small ceramic dish,
a pretty blue one, simply: salt, pepper,

olive oil. Were these proper proportions?
Then, at the quiet table, a mystery
still unto myself, with my hands

I parted small teeth and ate its tongue,
for speech and desire; swallowed
both opalescent eyes, for failing vision;

broke the skull between thumbs
and scraped from within a nail’s worth
of warm, rich brain, as if for understanding.


More Honored in the Breach:
The Spider, Displaced

I brush away a new web,
fine and unruly, with the edge
of my book, and the spider
appears and disappears
beneath the arm of the chair.
I desire neither to kill
nor to be bitten, but this
is where I sit each morning
as I reflect on the day defeated
and the failed day ahead.
Soon, I am pondering
the crows and magpies
of the lost west, and the spider
is forgotten until I feel
a faint, persistent tickle
on the hairs of my forearm.
And there she is—small, angular,
color of sand. I am certain
attention has been demanded,
though the meaning eludes me.
I move my hand toward her
and she drops gracefully,
unharmed, to the marble below.
What then is this thing inside,
that breathes with my lungs,
pulses with my blood? What
awful blessing denied
and nourished for decades,
that I obey without fault, that
cannot be quelled or silenced?


More Honored in the Breach:
The Walk Back from Tondela Monday Market,
Past the Gravestone Carver

The whole uphill, and morning
exuberance—clear sun, good sweat
on the brow after weekend of gloom—
all mockery. Far glimpsed views,
curious sheep of the field, patience
for any ratty dog on a chain, this and all
nonsense dispersed in ridiculing
afternoon, march of squishy feet,
legs wobbly on the climb.
New artillery bag, first test of service,
bows left shoulder, then right
beneath its wide strap, lurid in
its bulge. Salt, olive oil, two fat bulbs
of garlic. Another kilo of fava beans
near end of season. Fatias of
the farmer’s dark ham. Excess
of one small bottle of piri piri to enflame
bland nights. Only passing again
the solitary engraver, face in rags,
intent on his crude edge of marble
in a studio of dust, strikes true on return.
Stench of jasmine and dying rose,
shards of stone taller than a man.


More Honored in the Breach:
Dreaming of Your Wife and Dog
4,000 Miles Away

It is laughter,
and play. A world of three.

Growls, and kisses,
with and without teeth.

And then you wake up.


More Honored in the Breach:
Eating Alone (Especially when Accompanied
by Any Conceit Involving the Moon)

Even if the poulet and porcini crêpe
is rich and tender, the fresh fava beans
sautéed in olive oil and onion, garlic
and nibs of fatty bacon. Even if

the absurdly inexpensive local white wine
offers pleasant citrus, a tingling fizz.
Even if the tablecloth is embroidered
and bright, and yellow lupine in the vase

charm in their simple affections.
And yes, even while full flower moon
for company, enormous, heavy, low
in the saddle of the sky, indifferent

to your famous charm, looks every bit
luminous parent to the wheel of Rabaçal
to slice for your late dessert. Even if
the departed day was good, even then.

Gaylord Brewer is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where he founded and for more than 20 years edited the journal Poems & Plays. His most recent books are the cookbook-memoir The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire (Stephen F. Austin, 2015) and a tenth collection of poetry, The Feral Condition (Negative Capability, 2018).