Monday, April 15, 2013

Saguaro, by Brenda Hillman


Often visitors there, saddened
by the lack of trees, go out
to the promontory.

Then, backed by the banded
sunset, the trail
of the Conquistadores,

the father puts on the camera
the leather albatross
and has the children

imitate saguaros. One
at a time they stand there smiling
fingers up like the tines of a fork

while the stately saguaro
goes on being entered
by wrens, diseases, and sunlight

The mother sits on a rock
arms folded
across her breasts. To her

the cactus looks scared
its needles
like hair in cartoons.

With its arms in preacher
or waltz position,
it gives the impression

of great efforts
in every direction,
like the mother.

Thousands of these grey-green
cacti cross the valley:
nature repeating itself,

children repeating nature,
father repeating children
and mother watching.

Later the children think
the cactus was moral,
had something to teach them,

some survival technique
or just regular beauty.
But what else could it do?

The only protection
against death
was to love solitude.

by Brenda Hillman, from Fortress, 1989

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