Further! Adventures on the Mojave Trail – Ortíz Quebrada


Ortíz Quebrada


the steaming power plant is a roar of lights whistles and screeching valves
the glitter of a thousand incandescent bulbs shed a purple-yellow glow
from the base of the unit to the very top like a giant monochrome
Christmas tree

the sound of a hundred steam and air driven systems assaults the senses
whissh rrrummmhhhummm humm hummm: the deafening strum
of an orchestra tuning up in an enharmonic clinch
the hair stands on end at the back of my neck

Ortíz closes the drawer of his desk and unlocks the security door
slightly built with wavy hair and a mustache that bristles before he speaks
he boasts the Spanish accent of the Americas

Buenos dias! Or, should I say
‘Good night’?”—a little night shift humor
“By the way” without a pause
“One of the mechanics got the boot last night.
Got caught asleep on the job
for the second time! Heh heh”

the small stove holds a charred pot
the coffee stale and burnt
“Fresh pot, Ortíz!”
“Sorry ‘bout that” he readies for the end of the shift
“You know how hectic it gets ’round here”
I empty the pot of black syrup
into the yawning gape of the sink

“You might as well go home!” I finish the coffee duty
walk behind a rack of chain hoists and monkey wrenches
sort through invoices and tares

“I’m here!” I call to the night
another evening in the hollows
of the electric machine


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