Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Sunday, April 12, 2015

To Ajo and Back

by David Chorlton

I   Highway 85

A migratory flock in V formation flies
across the Gila River, where
the trees along its banks
are pastel smoke in March

when lupines, broom and mallow
line the road all the way
past yet another desert lonely prison
where the only movement visible

is that of swallows looping
high above the sparkling razor wire.

II   The Depot at Ajo

When wind combs back
the grasses sprouting
from the platform's cracks
it's telling how the mine closed
and left a wall of tailings
along the edge of town

but the Cactus wrens stayed on
to call from palo verdes
rooted in between the tracks.

III   Desert Arch

The ocotillo fan their many arms
to receive the wind
that blows volcanic shadows
over rocks dripping from the light
in rhyolite layers moulded
to the shape of the Earth

and high above them
an arch has formed
through which the stars
flow when they follow
bats into the night.

IV   Folklorico Dance on the Plaza

In stately descent
from a clear sky
the turkey vultures glide
over the open pit mine,
down close to the old school
and the white cupola
on the  Catholic church,
eighty wings wide above the plaza
as festivities begin

and they are silence over music
when they reach the eucalyptus
growing next to the mortuary
they have chosen for a roost.

V   Border Patrol on the Reservation

Into grass at the asphalt’s edge
a roadrunner darts for cover,
neck stretched forward and back
as straight as the road from Why
to Quitohoa. He’s gone
so fast not even the agent can see

from the truck parked behind
the old billboard whose lettering
has flaked beyond explanation
of why it is there.

VI   Reservation Spring

In a land whose rivers are dry
wildflowers flow
from shrine to shrine
and spring to spring;
from needles filled with light
on the cholla to a mine
cut from a mountainside.

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