Give Me Liberace or Give Me Death

posted in: Poetry | 0

Two poems by Baltimore poet Shirley Brewer, from her book A Little Breast Music, published by Passager Books in 2008.
3 minutes


After a 30-year career as a speech therapist, Shirley Brewer got her MFA in creative writing. She said, “I can’t imagine my life without poetry.” Here are two poems from her book A Little Breast Music. They both use the language of “language” to tell their stories.


I want to turn in all my letters,
Empty the tray
and start over,
trade these stagnant vowels
for a couple of spunky consonants,
give myself the challenge
of q without u.

You left me alone in Colorado.

That summer the rivers ran
In shades of wild olive,
Trout aching for the touch of bait.
I watched you fish,
Loving the light on your features,
The way your arm muscles quivered.

We played Scrabble on a stone table,
Words spreading from the center
Like a tiny wooden parade.
You told me about her
In the middle of a verb.
Or was it a compound noun.
Should I remember?

I know the river stopped,
The trout vanished,
I think the sun withdrew its rays—
Everything lost
In the syntax.

Give Me Liberace or Give Me Death

I want a word
With David Letterman,
A smile from Isaac Stern.

My father and I bantered daily,
Feeding each other puns.
He wore play like a coat of arms.

In church, he pinched his nose
in the front pew,
feigned anger at the incense.

Humor pumped him even near the end,
When his heart slowed,
His breath an old noise.

I’m hungry, he said, for cereal killers
onion rings around the collar.

. . .

To buy Shirley Brewer’s book A Little Breast Music or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to

This audio-cast was made possible in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.