North of Tombstone, 3 A.M


Shadows and silhouettes backed by a waning moon
Slide past like California’s 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. Benson Fuel glaring 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 bag over the curb,
Joining our travels. Where can she be going, alone? El Paso?
Chemo, hoping it works this time?
Or just to visit their daughter?
Her husband watches as she
Gets on board, hands shoved in jeans pockets looking dried out himself…
Then 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 is barely heard.

I wonder about the kind of man who would come here
In the early times, on horseback, or on foot
Across this lonely place that only wanted to suck the water from him?
Was it silver? Land? Water?
Or simply that those men had just run
All other choice in life away,
And this dry place, full of ghosts and questions,
Was the last that would take them,
And cared for nothing
But the water in them.

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