JEFFREY ALFIER recently retired as a major from the U.S. Air Force. He is now a technical writer dividing his time between Bechhofen, Germany, and Tucson, Arizona. Publication credits include A Time of Trial (Canada, 2002), Border Senses, Columbia Review, Poetry Greece, Poets Against the War, Stolen Island Review, The Richmond Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review (forthcoming).
NORTH OF THE SANTA MARIA RIVER
To put knives in their thirst, Conquistadors
named rivers for saints, though earlier tribes
once swore this flow was the tear of a god.
This is where the Indian gift shop stands
where you buy your wife turquoise souvenirs
for your twentieth anniversary.
The girl working the counter tells some drunk
another tribe's land-grab makes wind foreign,
while your eyes dream her skin inviolate,
a smoothness tinged like suns ever-setting,
and it haunts your road home to Gila Bend.
What won't hurt your wife is what she can't see:
at night, while she is lying below you,
your mind shape-shifting that Indian clerk
until clenched eyes see another body.
Nonetheless, you finish making love, smile,
say 'I love you', and slide down beside her,
the way it seems it's been done forever,
the mind in traffic of opportune souls
like asps on the breasts of Cleopatra.