Teddy bear cholla
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