Is about the size of a large fist
and so, as we’re told, is also the size of the human heart.
Is a tight case of coiled wire, of rolling magnets.
Is a translation from kinetic quickness to alternating currents.
Is where the serpentine belt spins out golden strands of voltage.
This is what the alternator is. This is what it does.
This is what it stopped doing one October evening on highway 191.
Waiting for a tow in the fading light, we collected seeds from the hesperaloe,
from the dried, brittle head of what had been a brilliant red flower.
The seeds, small black wedges, like slices of carbon
or misshapen tokens for some infernal ferryman.
Parts and Labor
The following evening, having reached the place,
We walked out the length of an old road cut,
Which led from the highway to a water tank and some microwave towers.
The roadbed eroded, unmade, its reclamation reclaimed
Littered with rabbit droppings, deer bones, and snake skins
grown over in dry, golden grasses, in juniper and yucca.
Scraping through the fallen leaves and standing tangles of scrub oak
Tom asks, “Dad, what comes after people?”
Tom, who four years ago was, himself, not yet the size of my fist,
Who was barely his own heartbeat, who was, himself, before people.
“What comes after people?”
He reaches, and from amid the clumps of tar-fixed gravel and rode base,
Plucks it up, a grey one, corrugated on one side, about the size of a sunglass lens.
He holds it in the air, then sets it down, finding others,
Left by the ones whose lives passed between the plateau and cliffside,
The ones who dressed themselves in black, iridescent wool spun from turkey feathers.
The ones who had left the valley now named for dead warrior kings. Montezuma. Cortez.
A few days stalking their quiet memory. A few nights of fires,
And we trace our way back,
Stopping to take on a sack of dried beans from the red fields.
Some melons from the Green River.
And, at the cinderblock toilets, piñon nuts,
Where millions litter the ground amid the spat gum and idling semis.