Selections from Aztec Lookout Blues by John Yohe

Aztec Lookout Blues

9th chorus

the fears of a fire lookout
besides lightning:
—that the one day a single attractive woman
who likes introverted mountain men
comes up to see the tower will be your day off
—taking a nap and hearing another lookout on the radio
calling in a smoke on your mountain
—having rumours spread by the firefighters down at the district office
that you walk around naked out on the catwalk of your tower
—being seen walking around naked out on the catwalk
—having the engine crew that picks up your time sheet lose it.
—being hit by a plane in the middle of the night
because there are no warning lights on the tower.
—a fire starting right on your mountain, right below you—a big one
—having a band of drunk good-ole-boy gun-toting neo-nazis camp down the road.
—UFOs, alien abductions, and anal probes
—visitors, the human kind, and their passive-aggressive-ness
—losing what tenuous friendships you have back in the Real World
—being visited unexpectedly by one of your parents
—causing a fire in the tower by leaving the gas stove on while you go for a walk
—becoming as crazy as all those lookouts you’ve heard about

10th chorus

hunters blowing elk-squeal blues
to each other like saxophones
all the real elk scared north
because no one wants to hunt far from a road
+ a cooler full of beer but the bumbleflies are here
hovering tower-eye-level never come in like their house cousins
just float watching me but for what? what do they eat?
hummingbirds snap gnats between penetrating red flowers
winking before they go (they like my red t-shirt)
hawks hover in the wind eye-level or gyre + gymbol
one kind single others hunt in pairs
imitated by crows cawing + laughing
whacking each others’ wings tucking + barrelrolling—
I miss the women of Portland in their black tights + glasses
who read good books though I don’t think they’d be happy here—
I’d like to sleep with their tights on my pillow—
sipping tea barefoot playing guitar with the ghost of Ed Abbey
close the trapdoor turn off the government radio
stand on the catwalk leaning against the rail
watching the sun change behind the Mazatzals (in Phoenix haze)
yellow to orange to pink to red to purple to blue
just me + the bears + turkeys + deer + elk coyotes + mountain lions
two hawks hovering in the dusk one last look for prey
before drifting downcanyon

12th chorus

last day at Aztec Tower
still time in the morning
to brew one last gunpowder tea
and sit out on the catwalk
looking out fifty to hundred miles
desert forest and rock
Salt River and Mazatzals
Superstitions and Mogollon Rim
the Rez Glob and Phoenix
still time to watch hawks hover in the wind
still time to listen to morning crickets
one last clear warm day and southwest wind
one last look through binoculars
as if there could be any fire
after two months of rain
everything septemberlush green
soon I’ll carry my guitar down
clean the counters
sweep and mop the floor
turn off fridge and gas
sign out with Dispatch
(even they sound sad)
walk down the stairs
bowing to the ghost of Ed Abbey
bowing to the tower itself
which kept me protected
from wind and cold and clouds
and lightning and rain
and aliens and Sasquatch
bowing too to myself
for finally doing it—
fire lookout after I thought I might be done
with real adventures
when they end only if I want them to—
time to get in the truck
and come down
the mountain
like a fool

Born in Puerto Rico, John Yohe grew up in Michigan, spent years in Oregon, and now lives in Colorado. He has worked as a wildland firefighter, bike messenger, wilderness ranger and fire lookout. Fiction Editor for Deep Wild Journal.

Twitter: @thejohnyohe