Your Boots

dusty from lost mercury mine trails,

roam uphill to the open door, step on the solid

pine floor — dusty as well, as dusty are twelve

pews, a rustic cabinet and a mute electric organ.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, narrow windows

flare out from the blue of stained glass. The petite altar

of Maria Guadalupe adorned with fake roses

and one-dollar banknotes reminds me of the miners’

cemetery, but there is a presence — a vertical ray

from the attic crosses the light from the door.

By neglect or invitation, the door is open

to the Chihuahuan desert — sotol and agave,

a matted setter roaming between boulders

like a coyote. Shouldn’t any church be like this —

open to your desert? A moment of shared solitude

when the light meets the ray — something pierces

your coarse numbness, stirs juices in the old agave?

Your restless boots ready to walk away, yet linger.

You pray for safe tires on the darkening dirt road

to mountains, for a connection where the signal is lost.

You remember Archie, an old auto-mechanic, saying:

“Unless you’ve got a skill that is really needed here,

don’t move to Terlingua.” Pray not with words

but skills of your hands. Under the open sky,

on the terrain of desert candles you learn both.

Adoration of the Road: i. Walking Beams

Pumpjacks. Pumpjacks. Panoramic cheeks

of the Chihuahuan terrain — hollow, stubbly.

The tongue of a road — glistening, unobstructed,

outstretched like Kali’s. Vishnu/Shiva, fusion/fission:

I’m ignorant of global, Oppenheimer things.

A thrush sings: kerouac, kerouac.

Lilac pyramids and pale mesas glow

at the edges of mustard, winter-tinted grasslands —

Andrew Wyeth’s palette, plants without plans,

plenty of oxygen. No need to protect

our license for silence with ear plugs,

to pivot on a central axis as a walking beam

of a pumpjack. We pull over to walk,

beaming with the joy of a mere breath.

Photo by Julie Landrum

Until 2007, Elina Petrova lived in Ukraine and worked in engineering management. She published two poetry books in English (Aching Miracle, 2015, and Desert Candles, 2019) and one in her native Russian language. Her poems have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Texas Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, Porter House Review, California Quarterly, Pedestal Magazine, and numerous anthologies, including Wicked Wit (runner-up award for Public Poetry). Her website is