JC Alfier

Transfigured Mojave

I’m out in Daggett, near the rail junction,
a flourish of sparrows in my attic. They murmur
like tides in the sun’s bone-hollowing heat
that could burn you even in your dreams.

Wind through pinyon pines plays thin hosannas,
muffled sounds like voices in a room beyond a room.
All distance here is motionless—
a scene from a calendar that never dates itself.

Coyotes herd their hunger along cutbanks
and washouts where dust devils ruck fences
that line ghost rivers to say all art is departure.
Nights become the Union Pacific’s labored drone,

headlamps gathering silhouettes
that contour broken foothills where feral rains
scrawl the unmapped zones of dust-addled air.
I watch evenings fall dark as henbane,

daydream my father at his coal shed, winters gone,
weathered slats breathing New Jersey winds.
How through snow drifts he’d scuttle the dark fuel
to his back door, lingering to stare at the moon.

Before long, I latch my screen door
and a gust pins a torn news page against it.
In all the quiet the desert can offer, the faded print
faces me like a voiceless messenger.