Aron’s Defense of Burnt Chaff
Crawfish pull a whole boiled egg into the murk
of the Llano River as I watch & am made
a crawfish disciple. Feasting on its gold core,
thick & embryonic, they are afterlifeless.
Me? I rise from the ash of a thousand pastures
—smoke & wildfire. & I may know
Satan. & I might be nameless. & I have been
the chaff & the dried wheat
also—bounty of the threshing. I’m the catfish
surviving life outside water
as the young men bale hay & prepare
for football in the hellish July
blaze certain to burn them. One has lost
a whole hand in the rusty baler
without even crying. That’s a lie. His scream
flies like buzzards for miles.
What do you seek in a Sunday sermon?
What promise comforts you? The Lord is cruel
here & cultivates thorns around all His roses.
The night’s a racket of locust molting
that confounds even me, who have spent
my life here. The mayor is shit.
The meth is shit. The preachers are liars.
The coaches are wicked but also
display, between classes, kindness. I saw one
give a Down syndrome girl
a hug, high five, & ice cream that made me
question judging him, wonder
whether the blasphemer I knew was a wraith
or the real thing, the honest version.
He growled each time he told me to get off
his field. I don’t give a damn if you broke
your ankle. You play like shit—& will still play
like shit when you get off crutches. He growled
the opposite to her. Joy, he said, you matter.
J. Scott Brownlee
J. Scott Brownlee is a poet-of-place from Llano, TX. His books include Highway or Belief (Button Poetry), Ascension (Texas Review Press), and Requiem for Used Ignition Cap (Orison Books), which won the 2016 Bob Bush Memorial Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters, and On the Occasion of the Last Old Camp Meeting in Llano County (Tree Light Books).