Sestina: El Tiradito

I come back once and ripe spring desert
like I said I would. Porchlit night
shadow in the horseshoe proved
true. It’s you. And it’s a spiritual
truth. Doglegged drive home in my car,
I say I come a long way and take this hand.

We spend this whole life scared. As if these hands,
but a result, what in the desert
my father made. Lover, mine drive the car
just how I want it to. My father. The night
would come inside him, a shadowen spirit
he called the Old Man. The Old Man. Every father proved

before him it was renewed. This life—is a proving
ground. What does it take to pass the hand
through the crucible of the spirit
of life. Scathe, a smell truer than desert
petrichor. The way that you do. At night,
under cold snap sky I alone in the car

discover the world: a single man a car
a gun grinding on a slow cam. What’s prove.
What’s puke in the foreign tongue, in your night,
a final shot sluiced away. By a wave of hands
let’s say who is happy with what they love. This deserted
name I belong to is for bad men. My spirit

is one of them. They call my spirit
the Old Man. Get in and he shuts the car
door reaching over your body. Desert
shadows 4th Avenue. He brings the prove
again to its altar. The bad seed, planted by a hand
on the knife’s blade. A night within a night.

We never go anywhere. It’s the same each night.
The engine hasn’t a kill switch to shut the spirit
simple as man any man with a gun in hand
makes his way no conversation. The car
was the best way to run. You get to a town, prove
what you will. The day belongs to the desert,

yet the sun wanes, night comes, a spirit
and we’re called the Old Man you know our hand,
our car—you’ve been the prove in the desert. I remember you.

Joseph Mains

Joseph Mains is from the Sonora desert. He lives in Portland, OR.


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