Opuntia bigelovii

Teddy bear cholla

David Ray



In a stroll through the desert

beside the shrunken rivers

the wise parent seldom refers

to the Opuntia bigelovii

lest a child reach out to touch

or perhaps even embrace one

should it be named for a Teddy,

this soft and fuzzy looking,

harmless and innocent cactus.


Quick as a snake the spines

leap out, bite deep, deliver

sharp stings except to the cactus wrens

nesting as if those homes are soft

as cushions, for how else

could Teddy defend himself?

Unlike the snake he cannot hiss

or inject venom, nor can she

lash out with fire or a bullet.

They cannot growl or yell

nor like a hot poker burn your hand.


Surely they have no desire to be

inhospitable, but it is best not

even to sit in their shade, for

Teddy and all his friends

are to this day defending their turf.




David Ray’s latest book is Hemingway: A Desperate Life. Others include The Death of Sardanapalus: Poems of the Iraq Wars and Music of Time: Selected & New Poems, and a memoir, The Endless Search. David lives in Tucson and can be reached at www.davidraypoet.com