Poem of the Week | May 26, 2014

This week we feature a new poem by Mark Jay Brewin Jr. Brewin Jr. is a graduate of the MFA program of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Beloit Poetry Journal, Southern Humanities Review, Antioch Review, The Hollins Critic, Copper Nickel, Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Greensboro Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. He has won the Yellowwood Poetry Contest at the Yalobusha Review and been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes. His first book Scrap Iron won the 2012 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry at the University of Utah Press. Brewin is currently the Poetry Editor for the online publication Saxifrage Press, Contributing Editor for the poetry journal Cave Wall, and Guest Editor this fall at PoemOfTheWeek.org.
Author’s note:

I was never a morning person, my wife neither, but we had to adjust to 4a.m. wake up calls when we decided to walk the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. On the pilgrimage for over a month, we would walk between fifteen and twenty miles every day, crashing in hostels filled with about fifty other travelers snoring and rustling in bunk beds all night long. This poem tramps along with us on those early moments walking through alleyways, across bridges and down farm trails, as I fell in love with the setting as much as my wife on those first nights we fell asleep together.



Estella, Spain


Our breath echoes in the cold like chimes
hung from balconies above alleyways.


Our path, one of carved scallop shells
on stone markers beyond the plaza mayor,


professes the gravel trails and furrows
of almond blossoms where mists


roll back from the laved rock-face, back
from plow ruts, the spade’s cut and gash


on the farmed sierras coddled by daybreak.
The world does not waken, but words


its morning prayer. The cuckoo’s din.
Poppies cresting thatch and ditch grass.


Before this dawn, this trail for the faithful,
if there was something I believed in


it was deep nights and the way I first
slept beside you, those dozing moments


of the chilled, spring wind wisping
from the cracked windowpane, streetlights


draped across the foot of the bed.
I once tried to count how many times


we inhaled together, exhaled together,
matched our bodies’ dream rhythms,


but lost the tally with sunrise. I can scarcely
keep track, now, of the snails lumbering


across the path to scale the woody cages
of dead shrubs. I don’t know how to


speak over the stirring beehives to ask
if you smell nectar in the air, or if I can


gently kiss the inside of your wrist.
Instead, let me share with you a humble,


pilgrim’s breakfast—a heel of bread
torn from the loaf; a drink of font water


from the tap, wands of algae swirling
in the overflowing trough. Let me


make you a promise without uttering
a single word. If I believe in anything, let it


not be a blessed saint’s decrepit clavicle
or sacrum, but laundry gusting on the line,


the woman trundling a cart of wildflowers,
sunlight—let the world, this holy way,


be a prayer of mornings, our breath in sync.