J. Scott Brownlee


My father’s heart
Burns a pillar of fire
The size of an oak tree
Engulfed by lightning.

I am helpless against
The procession of it
Through his chest
Into mine—

Which is blind,
The way all disease is
Before first igniting.

Love, though, isn’t helpless.
The flames’ height insures
He will be consecrated.

Each time he tries to say
My name—riddled
By tubes that root
Through him—

It comes out as, Fire.


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.
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