Say there’s a story everyone knows
about a man killed by an old saguaro
that he’d shot again and again
until it fell over and crushed him
Say maybe he was too drunk, or say
that the cactus looked like a man
with his hands up. Say the man knew
that had never stopped anyone
from getting shot again and again
Say, in this story, I am not the man
or the ruined cactus. I’m not the desert
or the gun, happy to be empty.
Say I am the unmentioned enemy,
a white person pointing at things.
On the long road back to Mesa
he says we’ll see 3 different deserts
I tweet from the passenger seat
needing to name them, and somewhere
have those names be seen
If the first desert is the women’s bathroom
some women aren’t allowed to use it.
If the second desert is a church
which is also a nightclub
it might become a giant hole in the ground.
If the third desert is him, turned away
at the door of my favorite bar
because they’ve asked for his passport
then we’ll get back in the car.
Michelle Betters is the Senior Editorial Assistant at Ploughshares, the Art Editor at Redivider, and an adjunct professor at Emerson College. She currently lives in Boston with her dog, George the Dog. Her writing recently appeared in Slate, and she tweets @mbetterpeaches.