Table of Contents - Vol. VI, No. 3
Shirley J. Brewer
My grandfather talked to his scarecrow
in the fields near Dundee.
He called it Joseph.
Evenings after supper, pie
warm in our bellies,
he would sneak an extra slice
as we rushed out the back door.
A treat for Joseph, grandpa said,
the pastry a jewel purpling his palm.
Is it really for the crows? I asked,
when the first frost
bit through the withered corn,
my words sticking together
in a child’s singsong way,
my hand lost in his.
Grandpa’s breath slowed, his lungs
a sudden burden;
his voice no longer worked.
The last light surrendered. We watched
the fresh-baked moon
comfort layers of autumn sky.
At ninety-five, my mother lives
in her living room. A single window
offers a small portion of world:
a cloud, a patch of sky, a tree.
Her window showcases autumn;
she watches each leaf as it falls.
Her still-bright eyes approve
the playful path of descent.
I sit next to her in easy silence;
she nudges me, her smile a gift.
Look at that one, mom says
with delight. What a leaf!
When death comes,
let it be less an ending
than a gentle journey
back to the blanket of earth.
—after a conversation with my Aunt Alvina
My arms bother me the most—
flesh hangs like elephant hide.
It’s pointless to talk about my breasts;
I need an upper torso corset.
Below the equator, joints and ligaments
wage a futile arthritic war.
Cold mornings, I sit on the bed,
bring my legs to life—my veins
skinny blue fish
trapped beneath old sticks of ice.
On the surface a ruin:
shaky limbs, jumbled speech.
Inside, a sapphire,
a new rose on the vine.
—inspired by Matisse’s The Yellow Dress
Baltimore Museum of Art
Born a bolt of lemon cloth,
unfurled on a wooden table until
I was flat as a fresh-mown field of hay.
It didn’t hurt when the seamstress cut,
rescued me from a destiny of dust.
She prepped me for marriage
to a pattern that transformed me
into a fancy taffeta gown.
Oh, Monsieur Matisse, his magic
made me more than a yellow dab of dress.
His brush lingered on the saucy bow
hugging my low-cut bodice.
He played with my fruit-shaped skirt,
absorbed the whispers
beneath its mysterious folds. We shared
a language, Matisse and I,
the hours we spent together,
watching pigment turn the canvas gold.
© Shirley J. Brewer