Bio Note: I'm an emerging poet, working on my first manuscript: have been published in I-70 Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Blue Nib, and others. I've lived in 31 different places, and currently write in the thin air of northern New Mexico.
Crossing the bottom of the arroyo in the four-wheel, stones rolling under tires, I look up to the far bank. Against early light, a coyote on the road ahead, loping with coyote indifference. He looks neither left nor right. But his ears are back. Above us, the moon is looking down at the sun below the horizon, watching its approach, waiting to be extinguished. As I top out onto the mesa, he turns north onto a faint track across an open area. I stop when I get to the spot; turn off the engine. The emptiness is sudden. He’s vanished. No movement. No sound. We wait. Each testing.
Two of us together should be able to clear this patch today. Get ‘em before they go to seed. Nothin’s worse’n tumbleweeds. I see you’ve noticed the thorns. That’s their protection. But like lots of things that cluster, stem’s the weakest part. Cut it off at ground level. No. No spray. Poisons everybody’s water. Stem’s at the center, but they’re too close together and too big for a sickle or hoe to reach it. Shovel’s the best tool. Slide it underneath—like this—and hunt around for the stem. Thing’s weaker than you’d think. There it is. Shove the blade through it. Hear the snap? That gray stallion over on the ridge? He’s a big one. Been seein’ his tracks lately. Heard me workin’ yesterday, and came up through the junipers to see what I was doin’. Stood there like a neighbor waitin’ at the fence line. Ears were turned back, though. He wandered off after a bit. Must not have liked my conversation. Prevention’s the best defense. If we don’t cut ‘em off before they go to seed, they dry out, stems break. and wind sends ‘em everywhere. Here, take my shovel. Give it a try. Yeah, the big fellah came back after a few minutes. I heard hooves pounding over on the road— more than one horse—and up he comes. Real close for a wild horse. I looked behind him to see what was doin’ the chasin’ and saw the white stallion that’s king of the roost around here. The young bucks want their own band of mares, and the easiest way to get one is take someone else’s. Not yet, buddy. That white’s got plenty of scars. Seen him fight, too. He just stood there watchin’. And the big fellah? Moved around behind me so I was between ‘em. No, I wasn’t afraid. White’s got him buffaloed. You know, it’s dry here. Talking makes you thirsty. Let’s get some water. You must be parched.
Monsoon in New Mexico
big drops striking sunlight slanting jagged splashes the cloud moves on water slips away takes the violence beneath your feet the aquifer accepts and air percolates like the raw side of a pancake this place it takes your breath
©2021 John Hicks
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