Terlingua, TX Haibun
In the ghost town, a way station until E.’s wedding, you keep your vow to a dry-tongued silence. You heed every rustle of snakeweed and honeyed blessing, stay clear of cowboy eyes and jackknives, freshly sharpened. If secrecy is the heirloom of the desert, I will plant ours in the mouth of a horned lizard. She’ll puff out in the sun or weep tears of blood, making herself difficult to swallow. You’ll drink in the mountains, the Chisos to the east, and the side show below the patio: a pair of baby heads growing toadstool red and a couple throwing shade with their glances, desert-toughened from the inside out. Later, we’ll pick our way through the basins, touring despite all there is to watch out for: crumbling adobe walls, toxic ore, the parts of rusted-out Fords, their fenders and sheet metal left out like offerings to some burnt out god above. A stray dogo circles and circles the back lot, pisses steam, and wanders free. Tethered, a toddler tries and tries to pluck the reddest rocks, the killing ones, against the tug of a fraying leash. A woman pulls a drag on the other end. Back in the good days, the bar man says (meaning the war), our miners fished out cinnabar by the barrows from the desert. And Lord, what a time. Mercury ran in their veins. The government money flowed in like a salve. Your eyes tell me that the smell of him is under your nose: car grease and dinosaur climate, the underwing of a turkey vulture. They say not far from here, just south of the border, women go missing. Deep below us, I can feel the earth absorbing Mariposa Mine molecule by molecule, easing the metals back. We keep our hands pinned
down. Our eyes thump
against each other like moths
keeping under wraps.
“Terlingua, TZ Haibun” first appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, January 2018.