Anza Borrego

Our evening desert swells with life, barred owls
emerge from shelters their own talons scraped
into the barrel cactus blossoming
with every thunderstorm, with each flash flood,
even if years apart. Their waters bring
successive changes to these rock flows, shaped
a thousand years by only wind and rain,

where stone and sand define a harsh domain.
Here, where the jumping cholla seem to leap
across the air, to catch on skin, and split
in sections, their spines cling, swelling with blood,
and burrow into flesh. If you permit
those barbs to rest within you, if you sleep
even one night, they’ll work themselves to bone

and give more pain than you have ever known.
Steel yourself. Have courage. Quickly slide
a stick between the cactus and your skin
and as a gardener removes a bud
with a quick movement, leverage each pin,
each blood-filled barb, away. If you’ve applied
the proper force, the whole segment will fall

back to the sand it came from and will sprawl
wind-driven from your feet. With this technique
and others, you’ll survive this withered place,
cauldroned dark sand, or rain-scalded to mud,
although each passing windstorm will erase
all hints of journeys, and the wells you seek
are only found in rifts a coyote prowls.


About W.F. Lantry

W.F. Lantry, a native of San Diego, spent many years walking the deserts and climbing the mountains of Southern California. Now he spends time in the Eastern Forests from Maryland to Vermont and practices woodworking near the Anacostia River. He holds a PhD in Writing from the University of Houston. His poetry collections are The Structure of Desire (Little Red Tree 2012) winner of a 2013 Nautilus Award in Poetry, a chapbook, The Language of Birds (Finishing Line 2011) and a forthcoming collection, The Book of Maps. Recent honors include the National Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, Lindberg Foundation International Poetry for Peace Prize (in Israel), and Potomac Review Prize.His work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Asian Cha, Inspired by Tagore Anthology, Möbius and Aesthetica. He currently works in Washington, DC. and is an associate fiction editor at JMWW. More at:
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