J Scott Brownlee


Appearing once, she said simply,
quiet.”  & then, later,
                                   “Don’t worship me.
I am fallen.”  “But
                              your wings,” I said.
“Don’t look
                    at them,”
                                    she answered.  “Don’t
approach me, even.”
                                   She stood cloaked
in fine silk the color
                                 of lightning—
                                                        or perhaps
he did.  Gender, false logos,
                                              be damned.
I still don’t know which—
                                           just that a gospel
entered me
                   as if a bullet
                                        in my brain
I cannot remember.
                                 The story
                                                 I don’t understand
is the one told to me
                                  by that angel’s absence
grace’s first
                        departure into winged silence
                from me,
                                blue eyes burned black
by the fiery core
                            of that single vision:
If grace exists, it does so
                                         quietly—& far away.
& without staying put.
                                      & because
of its tendency to leave
                                     —an all-too-human
quality—it cannot be
                                   worshiped.  God escapes,
Worship me, if
                         there is one, I say.  & if not,
still does so—
                                                   no one
to teach us
                   to focus on the presence
                                                           of love
interacting with nothing
                                        between us & it.
If I am called
                      by my belief in nothingness
to account for
                       angels, the truth is
                                                      no angel
visited me.
                    I made each detail up:

the silk, the wings, the uncertain
though if you ask me to prove
                                                 my belief—
explanation I have
                               for the nothing I see
why I believe
                           in nothing, still, though
love dwells
                                   close to me—
I will swear
                    it happened.


J. Scott Brownlee is a Writers in the Public Schools Fellow at NYU. His poems appear in The Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, RATTLE, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, BOXCAR Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Llano, Texas (population 3,033), he writes about the people and landscape of rural Texas and is a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective that emphasizes place-based writing of personal witness, cultural memory, and the aesthetically marginalized working class, both in the United States and abroad.  His chapbook, Highway or Belief, won the 2013 Button Poetry Prize.