poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

Recorded for Poem-a-Day, June 16, 2017.
About this Poem 

“I spent much of my early life with my grandfather, a World War II veteran. While he rarely spoke about his experience, I could still sense, even at a young age, how it hung around him like a kind of shadow presence. This poem originates from a memory when I acutely understood how his time fighting in Europe altered his actions and his body.”
—William Brewer

Debris

   Storms are generous.
                                      Something so easy to surrender to, sitting by the window,
 and then you step out into the garden you were so bored of,
                 so bored of you hated it,
                                             but now it needs you.

                          Twang of the rake’s metal tines biting at the dirt.
   You destroy a little camp of mushrooms,
                                                                   pull leaves into a pile,
                                                                              are struck with wonder
                                                                   when there rolls out
                                                                                              a little bird’s nest—
                                                                                                 the garden’s
brain.

    You want to hide in it.
                               Twigs, mud, spit, and woven in:
a magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun,
                                                                                        a sway of color you’ve seen before. 

                 You were a boy.
   You told your grandfather you spotted a snake in the yard between the buckeyes.
He revved his weed whacker,
                                         walked over,
            conjured a rose mist from the grass
                                                            that swelled in the breeze, swirled together, grew dark,
                                                                        shifting through fans of sun,

                                                                                                            magenta, then plum,
blush,
               gone. 

Smell of exhaust. Tannins of iced tea
                                                            you drank together on the porch later,
                                                                                          his spiked with Wild Turkey,

                                                            the tumbler resting on his thigh,
                                    the ice-sweat running off, smearing the dried snake juice,
                                                                                          pooling in a divot of scar tissue.

       A souvenir, he called it,
from the winter spent sleeping in a hole in the ground in a Belgian wood,
                                                                               listening for German voices to start singing
                                                                                                   so he knew he could sleep.

Copyright © 2017 by William Brewer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by William Brewer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on June 16, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

William Brewer

William Brewer

William Brewer is the author of I Know Your Kind (Milkweed Editions, 2017).

by this poet

poem
Only in the slow braid of a dream
can you study want and need, their
patience, their cruelty. Amid the thin
trunks of their campfires’ smoke,
I watched the hours shed
their polished armor, clean and
sheathe their blades, water their
stallions,
poem
Fall kingdom conquered first by bedlam,
then bedlam’s hunger—hush—heavy
in the air between the hills that crash
like waves into each other. What is a hive
without its queen? Thirst can rule, so can want.
A crown of needles, a gown of clouds she parts.
poem
Always this warm moment when I forgot which part of me
I blamed. Never mind the pills kicking in, their spell
that showers the waiting room, once full of shame,
in a soft rain of sparks that pity sometimes is,
how it mends the past like a welder seams metal,
and