Imagine I am a body on the side of the road, maybe a girl in a skirt and a shirt that’s torn, or a boy with a briefcase and muddy boots. Imagine I am you. You’ve taken too long to get here, the middle of nowhere. Pyote. City of Pyote sign ahead but only dirt roads and maybe a farmer somewhere way off in the back beyond where you can see mesquite and that’s all littered around like forgotten seeds of something half-grown but with roots strong and long enough to reach any water-table no matter how deep. That’s the desert. It eats what it can. Imagine I am a man fixing a radiator because it’s too goddamn hot to run away. It’s too hot to feel your legs let alone your heart which is breaking, and always has been. Imagine the three of them broke down in the same place outside the city of Pyote. Which exists. I’ve seen it, driving into nothing because it’s too goddamn hot to do anything else. The girl with her skirt
and the boy with the boots. He’s thinking, Take her to Red Sands Inn. He’s thinking, Take out the pain I’m in. He’s thinking the old man with the radiator might make it halfway to Brownfield and the girl is thinking, Where am I going? She’s thinking, I’ve got a body, I should use it. So she walked out and kept going and had the thought of eating snake but didn’t. When she was a girl she wasn’t afraid. More afraid of not being poisoned. She wanted the hallucination like a light. Like a feeling of being somewhere higher than here. Imagine I’m you. Everything you’ve lost in that boy’s briefcase which he kept because it locked and he planned on throwing it out once he decided, This is it. I’m a goner. I’m gone. The old man with the radiator wanted water and a coastline but he married for money and a tight ass. Nothing lasts. The girl’s got some legs, that’s for sure. The boy, a gun, probably. Nothing more dangerous than a young broken boy looking for something to ground him. The mesquite can live in the heat for years because it has the patience to stay still. To stay long enough to reach a water-table, no matter how far down. The man once reached Kansas and told himself he’d kill himself before he got any farther. Instead he went back to Pyote by way of a broken down bluebird of a car that kept things interesting. The girl thought the same of snakes but was never brave enough to pick one up. Shoot it, maybe, but then you can’t get stung. So she told the boy to take her to the Red Sands. Why not? It was too goddamn hot. And the old man said, All right, get in. I think I have enough for the three of us, and handed them a round.
Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her Masters in Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College in 2010. She recently completed her first full-length manuscript of essays and poetry and has a chapbook in print and one forthcoming with Mouthfeel Press. She is the resident poet for Port Yonder Press' online magazine Beyondaries and her work has been featured or is upcoming in 3:AM Magazine, Night Train, Versal, Sugar House Review, among others. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.