Photograph at White Sands National Monument, 1998

Betty Stanton

Originally published in Gravel: A Literary Magazine

In red trunks you’re half dressed, smiling into

the sand, and you’re not sick yet. We’ve climbed


the glistening dunes together, risen from the heart

of the Tularosa Basin on waves of white gypsum,


have buried ourselves in the smooth dust of Spanish

explorers leaving treasures in an open sea of sand.


There are whole histories lost in the waves beneath

us, the paths of ancient hunters, descendants of men


who crossed worlds on bare feet. Our feet dig into

the ocean and find children’s toys, lost keys, the bones


of desert lizards. This is before the years we never

talk about. Mute, we will to track each blood cell


as it changes, chart red versus white, count each number

in your viral load. Here you’re smiling, laughing, broad


mouth open to straight white teeth, and your skin, hot

in the high noon sun, is just beginning to turn red.

BETTY STANTON (she/her) is a writer who lives and works in Tulsa. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals and collections and has been included in anthologies from Dos Gatos Press and Picaroon Poetry Press. She received her MFA from The University of Texas - El Paso.