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.

by Pattiann Rogers

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