J. Scott Brownlee

Juke-joint jewel, I bloom regally here.
See how poor folks pick me like the meat

in their teeth?  How I bloom like the rye whiskey
caught in their breath?  I’m the queen of the bar-ditch.

I’m rude.  Royalty ain’t got nothing on me.
I’m insatiable lust in the bar bathroom,

kissing mixed up with sawdust.  If I’m crushed up,
I stain.  If I’m beauty, I don’t come out of anything.

Pick me wilted for free by the side of the road.
Wear me.  I’m your lapel for the prom

or the shotgun wedding you can have
if you can afford it.  Let Jesus keep his marriage miracle:

water turned into wine for rich sinners to sip
in mahogany pews.  You’ll drink Bud Light out here.

You will not be ashamed to build bouquets from green,
common weeds—weave wildflowers in your hair—

or make crude, white-trash wedding vows
seem as if Shakespeare wrote them.

You’ll drink red wine from paper cups
sold at the town Super-S and have passionate sex

in an old pick-up’s dusty backseat.  Bet you’ll feel
the gun-rack rub your ribs and be pleased by it,

for some reason.  Bet you’ll sway slowly—
swoon—singing country ballads with the radio set

to a local station.  Romance won’t seem the scent
of expensive perfume, but the green key-chain tree

dangling like Eve’s fruit on the dash.  Pearls of sweat
on your neck will gleam sufficiently, making diamond rings

dim symbols of what you feel.  Honeymoon will be moon,
mostly, then: looking up.  You won’t need fine French food

to create ambiance.  What you give here, you’ll leave behind—
first-lust-at-last—like bra-straps in backseats.  After coming,

you’ll bare yourself: cry openly.  In the sweet-scented dark,
without any regrets from the day, you’ll escape

your shit, 12-hour shift at the local truck stop
where you get no smoke breaks—make a pact

with the night and what darkness contains
if you let your guard down.  After one kiss,

you’ll cave.  On no Bible, you’ll swear. 
At the body you love, you’ll stare.

J. Scott Brownlee is a poet and poetry critic from Llano, Texas. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, RATTLE, Tar River Poetry, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and elsewhere. Involved with several literary journal start-ups, he co-founded Hothouse with poet P.J. Mendoza and The Raleigh Review with poet Robert Greene. His current writing project, County Lines: The Llano Poems, explores small-town life in the Texas Hill Country.

“If I lived in a mobile home like many of the people in my hometown, I might or might not have a front porch—depending on whether or not I had enough extra cash stashed in my mattress to afford one of those makeshift Wal-Mart porches you build out of plywood, shoddy construction directions, and sweat. What I would have, however, is a pick-up truck bed to pull down and sit on just about anywhere I happened to be—whether at work, a ball game, the convenience store, etc. —a mobile front porch, if you will. It would have a cooler stocked with Bud Light, Miller Lite, and other cheap, essential booze. It would also probably have some locals with bad grammar sitting on its grooved lip shooting-the-shit—talking about Jesus or politics or something else I don’t believe in anymore. I would listen to them speaking, though. I would pay attention to them, regardless—to the clipped cadences of their distinctive Texan twangs, and I would learn something from them—grateful I wasn’t born somewhere with a higher concentration of front porches than truck beds, because then I wouldn’t have a pick-up truck porch on which to sit and hear the ain’t-laden language of women and men I’d probably never share a porch with otherwise.”