Gaylord Brewer


Gaylord Brewer is a professor at Middle Tennessee State University, where he founded and for 20+ years has edited the journal Poems & Plays. His forthcoming books are a cookbook/memoir, The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire (Stephen F. Austin State UP, 2014), and a ninth collection of poetry, Country of Ghost (Red Hen, 2015). Visit his website (

More Honored in the Breach:
Fava Bean

They are, of course, of infamous
double preparation, that’s their first
advantage for you. To begin, one must
free bean from its cottony pod.
Cross-legged in the sun,

small and large bowls arranged,
you may surprise yourself to find this
a pleasant tedium for afternoon.
Each thick pod torn at the seam
between thumbs, each fat, bright bean

a prize born of the hands’ honest work.
Too soon, perhaps, job done.
Boil in salted water three minutes,
no more. Count seconds aloud,
named and lived in steady cadence

as you consider the turbulence
of the pot. Remove with slotted spoon
to ice water and drain. To shell,
stand at the counter for variety
in your approach to devised task.

Master technique: pressing each
bright and slick and shining
from pale sheath, possibly locating
in the rhythm of monotony
a meditative solace. Anyway, there’s your

bowl of beans, comically diminished
from bulging sack, ready to cook.
It is nah-theeng, chided the old woman
at the market from behind her table
at your requested amount.

In disdain, she plucked one pod, another
off the scale, stuffing the rest into
a sack in exchange for your coin.
She was right, of course, may or may not
have understood the gestures of

eating alone. You’re foreign either way,
probably a fool. You were right, too.
So when you’ve climbed the square,
bought a bottle of white wine
or found no bottle to be had,

returned, reasoned with the chickens,
have exhausted, that is, every potential
for distraction, then you may sauté
your bounty over a low flame
in butter, salt, garlic, and onion.

They may be the best you’ve ever had,
as you sit in the darkening
kitchen and lift each bean to your lips
from the small plate before you,
as at the window night hungrily scratches.

In May of 2013 I was on my way to a residency at ARTErra in rural Portugal and didn’t have a clue what I would be writing or working on. During an inadvertent 12-hour delay at JFK—don’t ask—I went into Manhattan to slay a few overcast hours. Seated behind me on the train—I never saw their faces—two men were having a long, animated—and, as it turned out, rather literary—discussion concerning pro baseball officiating and some new rule imposed on umpires that was impossible to fairly enforce and was ‘better honored in the breach than the observance.’ I know Hamlet well, and lord knows I’ve a storehouse of behaviors and thoughts ‘better honored in the breach.’ A little bell went ting-a-ling, and the coming weeks were taken over by the conceit. As for the culture of loneliness, as well as the fat, glossy fava beans heaped on the folding tables at Tondela’s weekly market, I believe these speak for themselves.