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SPARROW OF ESPAÑOLA / Michael Pettit Here's to that bedraggled sparrow we saw at the Sonic Drive-In one Sunday afternoon passing through Española, New Mexico. Famous "Low Rider Capital of the World." Where the auto parts stores all were open, lots full, and out on the drag a parade of huge Dodges and souped-up Chevys crept along, engines throbbing, drivers in mirrored shades just visible above the steering wheels made from chain, the carpeted dashboards, the soft dice bouncing as cars reared up and dropped down, reared and dropped like perfect black stallions in movies at El Pasatiempo down the road. Sunlight ricocheted off tinted windshields, metallic-flake paint, chrome trim as the drivers idled bumper to bumper up and down U. S. 285, route of the Pueblos, route of Escalante and Cortez, of Spanish priests, American trappers, traders and tourists on their way somewhere else, stopping for coffee, a bite to eat, a tank of gas to get them out. In Española the low riders drove all afternoon, all evening, all their lives for all we knew. For half an hour we ate in our car and watched them go by and go by. They were home there, like the hard-luck sparrow that accosted us at the Sonic: brown and small and skinny, half its feathers gone, others poking out at odd angles, it looked ravaged and incapable of flight, sparrow of present misery forever. Yet it flew, popping from beam to beam holding up the corrugated steel roof 252 · The Missouri Review above us, flying about or bouncing around on the ground, peeping its one note over and over. There—out of the hot sun that bore down, crowning the cars out on the strip, softening the asphalt everywhere except in the shadow of the Sonic— was home, was the known world: the cheap speakers squawking, waitresses hustling trays, overheated aroma of fries and tacos, crumbs all the sparrows fought over. Ours and the others of the flock— those bigger, less tattered, maybe not so hopelessly stuck in Española— went begging from car to car, ours and the hot machines of low riders in for a rest, a break in their ceaseless revolutions up and down 285. Here's to that lost sparrow, that least bird cheeping on the hood of our car, ornament of desire that creates and defeats failure. Here's to the insistent call of its heart that won our hearts. We rolled out of the Sonic into the parade and out of Española singing his song over and over and over. Michael Pettit The Missouri Review · 253 VIRGINIA EVENING / Michael Pettit Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg, cluster of lights sharpening as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge darkened. Not stars but blue-black mountains rose before me, rose like sleep after hours of driving, hundreds of miles blurred behind me. My eyelids were so heavy but I could see far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing, lightning sparking from cloud to mountaintop. I drove toward it, into the pass at Ironto, the dark now deeper in the long steep grades, heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted with evergreens, with spruce, pine and cedar. How I wished to sleep in that sweet air, which filled— suddenly over a rise—with the small lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere they drifted, sweeping from the trees down to the highway my headlights lit. Fireflies blinked in the distance and before my eyes, just before the windshield struck them and they died. Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass their bodies clung like buds bursting the clean line of a branch in spring. How long it lasted, how many struck and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say. Beyond them, beyond their swarming bright deaths came the rain, a shower which fell like some dark blessing. Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on what an eerie glowing beauty faced me. In that smeared, streaked light diminished sweep by sweep 254 · The Missouri Review you could have seen my face. It was weary, awakened, shocked, alive with wonder far after the...


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