Queen's Quarterly

Queen's Quarterly
Queen's Quarterly


Richard Schiffman

A shrill and ammoniac shrub, demonstrative
but not demonic, though settlers called it devil brush
or wormwood, a bitter anti-parasitic medicinal
suitable also for catarrh and coughs.
Even cows won’t touch it, neither will the sheep,
which is why it so promiscuously spread
where grasslands once fed the endless herds of antelope,
buffalo and elk. Today, for as far as the eye can see,
this khaki invasive, this tattered flag of overgrazing,
which Julie dried and bundled, tied with coloured yarns
and sold to tourists who were looking
for something authentic to burn.


Richard Schiffman is an environmental journalist and author of two biographies. In addition to Queen’s Quarterly, his poems have appeared in the New York Times, This American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and on the BBC. His latest poetry collection, What the Dust Doesn’t Know, was published by Salmon Poetry