We learned everything we needed to know
on the road to Tucson,
and according to the sign beneath the water tower,
Christ was the answer.

We traveled west on the I-10 in a beaten-down van
while the host of All Things Considered
speculated about the fate of political prisoners
halfway around the world.

At 2pm Mountain Standard Time,
we saw a man panhandling
outside the Flying J truck stop,
hoping that someone would toss
a half-eaten burrito in the trash.

But the events that occurred after 2pm
indicated that Christ couldn’t save us
from beggars or potholes, flat tires
or a blow to the historical record.

Instead, we learned that a house made of scrap-wood
from a citrus stand is just as sturdy as anything;
that the remnants of a Mormon wagon train
can be excavated with an ice-scraper
beneath Picacho Peak,
the splinters of wood giving way to
shards of cream-colored fabric, revealing
a hand-sewn dress worn by a woman
who survived the births of at least two children.

By dusk, I’m desperate to tell her about
the impending revelations that will make her question
her belief in the prophets,
the immortality of the planet,
the capitalist system that will become
the god of us all.

In response to artwork by:
Philip C. Curtis
Stagecoach, 1957

oil on board
24 x 35 in. (61 x 88.9 cm)
Framed: 32 x 43 1/2 x 2 1/4 in. (81.3 x 110.5 x 5.7 cm)
Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Gift of the Estate of Kathleen I. Leavitt
2007.145


 

“I was on my way to Tucson with my boyfriend’s band when I saw a sign underneath an old water tank that said “Christ is the Answer.” A few miles later, I saw a bumper sticker that said “capitalism is boss.” I jotted both down on a piece of paper. A week later, when I saw Philp C. Curtis’ Stagecoach, I knew it represented more than just an antiquated way of life, a mere journey through the desert. It told the story of promise and hope derailed. It made me reflect on the westward movements of prospectors and Mormons. I realized that their beliefs were exemplified by the signs I’d seen. From there, our histories converged.”

Rosemarie Dombrowski is the co-founder and host of the Phoenix Poetry Series and the editor-in-chief of the undergraduate writing journal on Arizona State University’s Downtown campus. Her poetry & prose have previously appeared in Columbia Review, Hartskill Review, The Huffington Post, The Review Review, and others. Her first collection of poetry, The Book of Emergencies (2014), was published by Five Oaks Press. She holds a PhD in American Literature and is currently a Lecturer of English at ASU’s Downtown campus.

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