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By Brenda Hillman

Often visitors there, saddened

by lack of trees, go out

to a promontory.


Then, backed by the banded

sunset, the trail

of the Conquistadores,


the father puts on the camera,

the leather albatross,

and has the children


imitate saguaros. One

at a time they stand there smiling,

fingers up like the tines of a fork


while the stately saguaro

goes on being entered

by wrens, diseases, and sunlight.


The mother sits on a rock,

arms folded

across her breasts. To her


the cactus looks scared,

its needles

like hair in cartoons.


With its arms in preacher

or waltz position,

it gives the impression


of great effort

in every direction,

like the mother.


Thousands of these gray-green

cacti cross the valley:

nature repeating itself,


children repeating nature,

father repeating children

and mother watching.


Later, the children think

the cactus was moral,

had something to teach them,


some survival technique

or just regular beauty.

But what else could it do?


The only protection

against death

was to love solitude.

 


Brenda Hillman, “Saguaro” from Fortress. Copyright © 1989 by Brenda Hillman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Fortress (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)

  • Activities
  • Nature
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Brenda Hillman
Brenda Hillman was born in Tucson, Arizona, and attended Pomona College, where she received a bachelor’s degree, followed by the University of Iowa, where she earned an MFA. She has been a member of the faculty at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, since 1984. She once told Contemporary Authors: "I am interested in the presence of spirit in matter and in how to have joy in a divided universe—that's what my poetry is mainly about. My tools are irony, the image, the broken narrative, and an intensely personal voice."

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