Bistro in Another Realm
Shirley J. Brewer serves as poet-in-residence at Carver Center for the Arts & Technology in Baltimore, MD. Shirley earned an MBA from the Maryland Bartending Academy. Her award-winning poems garnish Naugatuck River Review, Passager, Barrow Street, Poetry East, Slant, Gargoyle, Comstock Review, and many other journals and anthologies. Her poetry chapbooks include A Little Breast Music (Passager Books, 2008) and After Words (Apprentice House/Loyola University, 2013). A Pushcart Prize nominee, Shirley received the first-ever Creativity Award for Excellence in Plorking (Play + Work) from the University of Baltimore, where she earned her Master’s in Creative Writing/Publishing Arts.
I’ve watched Shirley Brewer’s growth as a poet, but more accurately as a maker of poems, for many years. The poems in her new book, Bistro in Another Realm, have a music and a precision that always serve their subject; they’re smart and sensuous, and promise more to come from this fine poet. ~Stephen Dunn
Shirley Brewer’s poems move me in ways no other poems quite manage. When she writes about artists, film stars, or family, her imagination is so alive I feel them sitting in my living room with me, except it is I who have traveled into her delicious and dazzling realm. Who would have thought that a poetry book could be a page-turner, but Bistro in Another Realm really is. I will go back to it again and again. ~Kendra Kopelke
Bistro in Another Realm is one of the most genuine books of lyric poetry that you will ever read. There’s a touch of surrealism in Shirley Brewer’s work, “a spoon that circles/ like a shark in a cup.” Excellencies include her sense of humor, the rhythm of her lines, the clinching authority of her concluding stanzas. You can believe the authentic emotion in her confessional verse, in her masterly ekphrastic poems about art and artists, in her elegies for family. This book is the best and surest introduction to her remarkable gifts. ~Michael Salcman
Plaque with Figure of a Python
—a 16th c. sculpture
Constrictor of the Old World,
once I feared you —
your length, your appetite,
the cost of your hug.
Now, I study your body
as you curve through silky grass.
Your route makes me dizzy,
yet I see myself in you.
When your skin splits, no sound
marks your rebirth. No drama.
I keep my distance. Deep
in the woods, I take off what I can.
My breath slows; night falls. I’m still
waiting for a chance to break open.
In Pleasant Valley Trailer Park
they wear clothes from K-Mart,
save good chocolate for holidays,
use credit cards only for cable TV
and pink acrylic nails.
a game of Go Fish, an old joke.
Large pores, bumpy noses, and belly rolls
abide in peace in Pleasant Valley.
Signs on the perimeter say Keep Botox Out.
The face tells a history,
sags like a tent in the abrasive wind.
Inside Pleasant Valley,
they smile at Time with unplump lips.
Content with their stories, they gather
in the cricket-heavy night,
faces lifted toward the pockmarked moon.
Free shotgun and roses with purchase
Offer good through Feb. 14th
—newspaper ad for a Kentucky used car dealership
Lester Criscoe lusts after the white Chrysler:
suction cup Jesus on the dash…trunk
big enough for a pride of pigs…
he dishes to his boss at the tuna factory
where the week before he’d won two hundred bucks
playing Quickie Bingo on his morning break.
Those born again wheels, an overdue bath,
and roses swaddled in Saran
answer Lester’s prayer—
a shortcut to Belinda Bunfab’s front door.
His plans for the weapon remain under wraps,
although Lester relishes a shotgun wedding
where the groom shoots off his mouth—aims
a volley of vows at his bride’s upholstered bosom.
He’ll fork over cash for a handful of shells,
enough to scare off Belinda’s dad, a surly guy
with lips like fenders, and a scruffy muffler
around his neck that never passes inspection.
Lester’s boss ties a zillion tuna cans to the tailpipe,
so the Chrysler looks like a Jesus miracle,
the one where the fishes multiply.
At the marriage feast, the whole town fills up
with a chorus of Hallelujah tuna
beneath the Kentucky hubcap moon.
Everybody goes home with a rose, Amen,
except for Belinda and Lester, who
consummate their good fortune
in the back seat of the…oh Jesus…Chrysler.