North of Tombstone, 3 am
Shadows and silhouettes, backed by a waning moon,
Slide past like California’s fading promises,
Distant and confusing.
Off to the south, somewhere over the sand and arroyos and cacti
Is Old Mexico.
A few miles, no more.
A small town slips into view,
Safeway. Ace Hardware. The usual.
A Benson Fuel glares at a Shell station on the other corner.
Ten-thousand tons glide to a stop so softly it would not wake a baby with colic.
An old woman with a bonnet lifts a travel bag over the curb,
Joining our travels. Where can she be going before dawn, alone? El Paso?
Chemo, hoping it works this time?
Or just to visit their daughter and the new grand-baby?
Her husband watches as she climbs on board,
His hands shoved in jeans pockets, looking dried out like the land…
When the train accepts her he turns back to the pickup for the long
Drive home in the dark, first stopping for coffee, for something warm to hold.
Rolling again, now, eastward toward a slice of New Mexico, then El Paso and Texas.
The car rocks softly, the miles drift by, the engine far ahead
The horn blast at crossings can barely be heard.
I wonder sleepily about the kind of man who would come here
In earlier times—on horseback, or on foot
Across this lonely, thirsty place that only wanted to suck the water from him?
Was it silver? Land? Water?
Or was it simply that those men had just run
Off all other choices in life,
And this dry place, full of ghosts and questions,
Was the last that would take them,
And still it cared for nothing
But the water in them.
About the Poet:
Doug Stanfield has been writing fiction and poetry most of his life, but took a slight 46-year hiatus to work as a reporter and editor in newspapers and in higher ed PR, among other things. However, when the kids were grown and he had retired from the university, he started this one. He says this new journey feels like a “gigantic hole in my universe is being stitched together one poem at a time.”
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