Issue > Poetry
Mark Jay Brewin Jr

Mark Jay Brewin Jr

Mark Jay Brewin Jr's poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous journals including Beloit Poetry Journal, Virginia Quarterly Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. His first book Scrap Iron won the 2012 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry at the University of Utah Press.

Santiago De Compostela

This is what we have walked this way for:
Saint James, blessed witness, give us
your statue's cold, gold-gilded shoulder
to rest our head on and let whisper into your ear
our confessions which cannot otherwise
or elsewhere be spoken, our troubles
and frank prayers for this ever-pacing world.
I am no one, or at least nothing great,
but my feet have brought me this far,
each tramped mile another tallied keepsake
I will carry back with me, away from this
holy country with its wild ragwort rampant
in fields behind farmhouses, its windmills
on the margins of hills. Promise me pardon
eclipses my stubborn heart and clumsy hands.
Promise me love need not be perfect,
just that it prevails across the map, amen.

These past weeks, almost each morning,
I have stirred from the hostel's chorus
of breathing from dreams of boundless star-
light, to wake and rise, to salted rubies
hanging in butcher shops and street peddlers
palming rosaries and jonquil trumpets.
To the cathedral's peel of bells and mossy
green tatters, algae tendrils dancing in the river-
drift. Once, years ago and on a foreign shore,
as a boy, I held up, listened to and tried
to hear in a scallop shell the faint call
of tides, but only heard the sound of footsteps
on gravel. I have always been racing toward
the west, whether or not I know it, wanting
to take in each moment and mile before I rest,
always using my bread crust to sup up the last
dregs of the lentejas from the bowl. Here,
Roman waterwheels stroll the stream-face
endlessly, and the enormous stone-carved
crests of the city walls, archaic and regal,
stand sentinel for the crumbling brickflats
within. Hundreds of pilgrims ramble this path,
from Mallorca to Queensland, Saint Petersburg
to San Francisco, and thumb this newfangled
reverie of simple verse, this fog-soaked earth
and these gnarled olive groves. Holy Apostle,

why is it we do this? For the stuck, wrought-iron
weathervane above the barn's bare gables?
The marvel of dusk's diminishing illuminations
as the sun drops below the Meseta?
For the soul's humble undressing, or the purple
blossom of the artichoke when it goes wild?
Do not take this for anything except
what it is. Do not misunderstand me when
I say "A man." It is only here and now
that I have come to find forgiveness
in the moon's bone-rim risen over the old
monastery's atrium, to place my faith
in the spoony terminus of one bodies' edge
dizzied against another. Let my words
unfurl like dew-glazed ferns. Let the chambered
muscle in my chest rattle on damn-near forever,
like the bill clatter of storks, a whole muster
of them, nesting in the wind-rasped eaves
of an old chapel. Let me be reckless
with my blessings: bless wave-crash
and cinders lacing smoke. Bless every celestial
splendor. Bless rust and thunder, the startled-
song of wind chimes hung by my parents'
back stoop. Bless the token of fidelity
to my wife, the actual silver ring I wear.
First martyr, moor-slayer, chosen one on high:
sit beside me as I witness the last embers
of sundown streak the harbor at Finisterre,
and like a father, show me what in the sky
will give me my bearings, tell me I'm on my way.


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