Carnegiea gigantea


Alison Hawthorne Deming





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.






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

that has sheltered you

as you grew?


Do you ever say to yourself

mindlessly wordlessly

God, it’s too f__in’ hot!

Or after the monsoon

I feel so bloated!

Or before

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.