Alison Hawthorne Deming
WHAT THE DESERT IS THINKING
We know the desert has consciousness because the saguaros
Stand up and speak as one about the heat
They tell the Gila woodpeckers to come in out of the sun
They tell a man or woman lost without water to lie
In the column of shade they make out of kindness.
They all hum together like Tibetan or Gregorian monks
One green chord that people hear when they drive
Through Gates Pass and come to the place where
They make a small gasp. Beauty does that though the nihilist
Will make a joke about the note of surprise that has escaped
From his or her loneliness. The smile from the joke will cover
For the smile for the joy. That’s okay. Consciousness
Is like the saguaro’s primordial cells that take a century to come up
With the thought, maybe growing some arms would be a good idea.
QUESTIONS FOR A SAGUARO
If it takes you a hundred years
to grow your first arm
for how long
do you feel the sensation
of craving something new?
Did you ever feel impatient
when someone put a shirt
over your head
and it took fifty years
to grow your way out of it?
Does it feel like greed or self-actualization
when rain comes and you suck up
every drop as fast as you can
even if you starve the palo verde
as you grew?
Do you ever say to yourself
God, it’s too f__in’ hot!
Or after the monsoon
I feel so bloated!
I’m so-oo parched.
Sometimes people are thrilled
to see you lined up
in disarray like soldiers
off-duty forever in the quiet desert.
Does anything thrill you?
A mountain lion scratching
its backside on your spines?
Flowers erupting from your head?
Fruits packing seeds
that will move all you’ve learned
from your one rooted spot
into new places called the future—
does that mean for you
joy when the sweet packages
fall to expectant ground?
Alison Hawthorne Deming is the author of four poetry books, most recently Rope (Penguin, 2009), and three nonfiction books including Writing the Sacred Into the Real (Milkweed 2001), with Zoologies: On Animals & the Human Spirit in the wings.