J. Scott Brownlee is a founding member of The Localists, a literary collective based on place-based writing and cultural grounding, so it follows that he dedicated this debut collection to rural Llano, Texas, his home. He earned his MFA at NYU and currently works at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
IV. Indian Paintbrushes
Our scent is sweet, but we will poison you.
Selenium-filled, we’re metallic creatures.
You wouldn’t think it at first glance. With our red
petals rising up from Texas dust you can’t see
that beneath them we’re pure parasite feasting
on spear grass roots. We require a host to turn
our bodies into what all beauty is at its source:
illusion. Call us greedy, the flawed fiends
we always have been, and forgive our natures.
We have wanted to bloom and bleed and be
honest guides here despite hundred-plus days
of heat where a nap beneath live oak shade
might just kill you. Here we have stolen
but also given. Here our bodies’ rot blooms
other wildflowers. Here in this landscape
of the damned where drought plagues
rattlesnakes, even, await your visit.
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