January 8, 2012

Robert Haynes

ON THE RULE OF SB-1070

You don’t have to walk far in somebody’s shoes
in Scottsdale, Arizona. The migrant Mexicans
move up Hayden Road; half of them, overheating
in the middle of the day, bend over a hole
they have been digging in this 106-degree
camaraderie of sweat. I’m nobody to them
as I pass by in my car, air-conditioned in July,
and wonder why we need a new law to search
men such as these for government paperwork?

These Mexicans in Scottsdale climb into a ditch
and twist at pipes with long wrenches. One picks
up a red-handled needle-nose pliers and nods
to his cousin or brother in the truck bed.
Maybe the pipes carry water or gas or another
need we have, us white drivers in the traffic jam
who get up in the morning and write our to-do
and grocery lists we magnet to an appliance.

This morning I’m just another Scottsdale snob
who listens to a woman on NPR who talks to me
with spasmodic dysphonia—a voice disorder that
causes her to halt and breathe, at times to struggle
parsing phrases. Today, she’s discussing SB-1070,
and doesn’t seem to like it.

The first time I heard her I thought she must
be pushing a hundred and hoped she wouldn’t die
on the air. Today she’s half on the side of Saul
and two brothers from Guadalajara who work
construction in Phoenix. I wonder if Saul wears
a hood to protect his face, or if NPR can keep
Sheriff Joe from storming through the studio.

“You are not white,” I imagine his insult, “and
not terribly hardworking.” It goes without saying
I don’t like the sheriff and wish he’d go bother
Texans or Kansans or no one in particular,
just away as an undocumented thought,
never heard among the roadside workers’
pastiche or in a traffic jam of Jaguars that make
foreign seem middle-class, if that could be possible.

from Rattle #35, Summer 2011