San Simon Valley
Canine tracks narrow and converge
at a carbon-ash circle of rodent skulls.
Cottonwoods rise into breath-held blue —
verdant flagships at the edge of a riverbed.
Wind rewrites the same script, pours
its burning vectors through August,
lashes stone and shuttered mineshafts,
dusts with relentless drive the time-bled
fortunes of abandoned towns. Adobe ruins
gap the ground like teeth worn away
in fitful sleep. Trailers in bankrupt dreams
await their collapse like cicada husks.
North, mirages ripple the lightning-scape
char of desertscrub, spalled stone.
Scan where the ground dips low:
gold poppies wash your vision,
horizon’s jagged weft of potshard,
bone, spearpoint, shares the distance,
leans into the vacancy at the ghost
of a half-buried road.
Walking the Frontage Road Past Reed Point, Montana
Late afternoon wind drones through decaying
slats of Occident Flour mill, around storefronts
and doors of shuttered businesses.
Discontented with stillness, gusts suddenly
kick deadfall leaves into autumn air so many
hope the year’s late crops won’t freeze in.
Where the town spreads its grid, some have lived
half a century in the same rooms. They swear
weather is the only news worth their time.
In a trailer on Division Street, a discharged
soldier lies awake, listening hard to the war
she just left, dope a minefield in her veins.
On this endless blacktop, your mind has too much
time to kill. Recalling how slowly worlds rust,
you strain at some faraway thing your last lover said.
Gathering again, wind insists on an audience —
shaking the fractured windshield and rusted hinges
of an ancient Ford parked beside the mill.
A Burlington Northern follows the rails into vanishing.
Unhurried, it melds to a geography of departure,
like someone breathing late in the dark.
Jeffrey Alfier is founder and co-editor of Blue Horse Press and San Pedro River Review. He won the 2014 Kithara Book Prize for his poetry collection, Idyll for a Vanishing River. His latest book is Southbound Express to Bayhead.