Eileen Apperson
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Dome Rock Mountains, Sestina

 

She had driven forty-two miles south of Quartzsite
past arroyos which hadnít seen water
for months. At thirty, she wanted to see the place
where her fatherís ashes were scattered across the land.
Years before on this parched, desolate ground
her father dug deep into the mountainís side, through soil

glittering with the red and opaque of quartz; soil
which did not lend itself easily to the sight
of a shovel. It was deep under this ground
that her father searched for gold, second only to water,
in this godforsaken region. She wished to know what land
could do to a person, what would lead a man to a place

away from his wife and child, away from a place
where he was needed. Stopping the car, she gazed at the soil,
its hues of dryness in sparse vegetation. The land
was gritty under her feet as she walked, her sight
taking her as far as it could as the sun gave the horizon a watery
image of deceit. She was told he left the dry ground

of their farm because of the drought and moved to ground
where there was at least some control in what you did, a place
where a man could still work hard and make a living without water.
The woman leaned against the car kicking the soil
with the toe of her boot, her head down, not looking now at the site
which her father had abandoned her for, land

which he left to her years ago. Fine dust landed
on the car as she continued to kick the dry ground,
once for every year she did not know him. A gravesite
where fellow miners tossed his remains was all this place
had ever been to her in her childhood dreams of barren soil
and lonesomeness. She knew it was not the mere lack of water

which drove him from their home. Water
was easy to blame. It was the desert of gold in a land
where many men dreamt of finding their fortunes in soil,
harsh and, in the end, unyielding. All which was grounded,
lost, as men entered this unforgiving place
away from those who loved them. That night she slept in a Quartzsite

hotel and dreamt the watertight dreams of her youth, dreams of a dry ground
and an exhausted landscape which was no place
for her, the soil seducing weak men to its lonely site.  

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Eileen Apperson lives in the San Joaquin Valley where she teaches composition and creative writing at a community college. She has a special interest in nature writing and is currently working on a creative nonfiction manuscript which explores the connection between the ever-changing landscape of the region of the valley where she lives and the lives of her family which helped direct that change.
 

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