The distant smoke of burning leaves
and the heavy scent of gasoline 
smothers the late-summer air. 
He stops to watch wings scatter 
aimlessly from the trees. His forearm 
glistens in silence and the mower 
grinds to a halt as he wipes his brow, 
seated on a bench in the half-mown 
grass. Nothing but the wind 
to witness his chest tightening 
like a fist around his heart. 


in memory of David Bowring

A bright red tractor sputters and dies 
on the yellow horizon. The spider plants 

on our kitchen table died years ago—
green leaves spilling from the bowl 

like milk tongued from a saucer, 
until they folded in on themselves

like immolated sheets of paper—
the way you can almost hear them

screaming and curling like singed hair, 
the crumbling ash of something living. 

Right now, chemotherapy is tearing
at your uncle’s vitals like a controlled fire. 

The red tractor may yet turn over,
and the farmer might save his field. 

But the fire inside your uncle’s pancreas 
will never extinguish or ignite again. 

Meet the Poet!

Brandon McQuade is an award-winning poet, and founding editor of Duck Head Journal. His poetry collection, Bodies, was the recipient of the 2022 Neltje Blanchan Memorial Writing Award. He lives in Northern Wyoming with his wife and their children. 


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