Gardens of Sand and Cactus

My wife takes salt for starters, and rusted strands 
of barbed wire, the iron Grandfather left. 
Chips chunks from a salt block mired in sand, 
that tongue-rubbed marble artwork of the West, 

anywhere cows roam--not buffaloes that lick 
their salt from cactus and the bones of coyotes. 
Takes bones, a skull, when she sees one.  Takes snakeskin 
like twisted strips of film.  Looks under yucca 

for the best, six feet at least.  But fierce 
grandfather snakes don't rattle until they're sure, 
so she listens before she stoops.  Finds horseshoes to pitch, 
any flint or curved stone shaped like a tool. 

Tugging our last child's Radio Flyer in the pasture, 
brings pigments back, even the burnt sienna bolus 
of owls.  Scrapes umber from banks of the Brazos, 
however dry, gold dust where bobcats marked the stumps. 

Packs, stacks it all.  Takes time, fans with her hat, 
then hauls that wagon wobbling to our house. 
Amazed that she makes gardens of cactus and sand, 
I miter frames to hang whatever she's found 

and salvaged as art, even rocks she cuts and tumbles 
in a barrel grinding like sweet, hand-cranked ice cream, 
turning this desert we call home into babies' mobiles, 
wind chimes and swings, bird feeders in every tree. 

From Blessings the Body Gave, published by Ohio State University Press. Copyright © 1998 by Walt McDonald. All rights reserved Used by permission.