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Matter of Light

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A matter of light,
part of the tree’s shade over the yard,
a zelkova leaf, narrow palm
of the rustbelt in April, green tints,

then little by little turning red,
a leaf surviving first snows, becoming
half furled, wing ruffled,
in the uncharted scales of ice,
their lunar tarnish,

and around it, leaf by leaf departing,
it fashioned a trace of shadow on the ground,
like some thin stripe across a wren’s skull
rooted in stillness, bleached in a field,

in January, a warm spell sustaining
last year’s leaf. It became in wind
a hand again, frost-​burnt but waving
under the slow passing arc of sky,
the leaf tree-​loyal
when buds reappeared.


Pittsburgh Quarterly is now accepting submissions for its online poetry feature. PQ Poem is seeking poetry from local, national and international poets that highlight a strong voice and good use of imagery, among other criteria. To have your work featured, send up to three previously unpublished poems in Word or PDF format as well as a brief bio to

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James Brasfield

James Brasfield’s collections of poems include “Infinite Altars” (2016) and “Ledger of Crossroads” (2009), both from LSU Press. He’s received fellowships in poetry from the NEA and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and received the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. His poems have appeared in many journals, and most recently at poets​.org.