Counting What the Cactus Contains
Elf owl, cactus wren, fruit flies incubating In the only womb they'll ever recognize. Shadow for the sand rat, spines And barbary ribs clenched with green wax. Seven thousand thorns, each a water slide, A wooden tongue licking the air dry. Inside, early morning mist captured intact, The taste of drizzle sucked And sunsplit. Whistle Of the red-tailed hawk at midnight, rush Of the leaf-nosed bat, the soft slip Of fog easing through sand held in tandem. Counting, the vertigo of its attitudes Across the evening; in the wood of its latticed bones-- The eye sockets of every saint of thirst; In the gullet of each night-blooming flower--the crucifix Of the arid. In its core, a monastery of cells, a brotherhood Of electrons, a column of expanding darkness Where matter migrates and sparks whorl, And travel has no direction, where distance Bends backward over itself and the ascension Of Venus, the stability of Polaris, are crucial. The cactus, containing Whatever can be said to be there, Plus the measurable tremble of its association With all those who have been counting.
From Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems, published by Milkweed Editions, 1994. Copyright © 1994 by Pattiann Rogers. All rights reserved. Used with permission.