Broken Cactus and Cold-Looking Days

To Gary Snyder

I’m surprised I can still call to mind so vividly February afternoons in the foothills of the Sandias, the biting wind, the weak sun, and the knit sweaters that hug my wrists too tightly. Rarely, snow. I could think, standing at the window, "I’m not going out there" but eventually... I’d go out there.

Now, that was twenty years ago. I turn on the TV and see a maniac. I'm not going out there. The freeze would snap the joints of the Cholla cactus leaving branches that even the hungry rabbits wouldn't touch. The ants might make an effort at it, though. How great is America? Greater than a hashtag? Greater than a suicide bomber taking out 80 so called apostates in Kabul?

Mom would urge me to the yard, to my friends, to push cold, cold breath out of my lungs. Speak and gather. In the hands of curious kids, everything's a gun and the real guns never get used.

They are known for their barbed spines that tenaciously attach to skin, fur, and clothing.

My house smelled of cinnamon, orange, and it was always warm. The spines protect the cactus from birds and after 31 Februaries I've grown to have a duty of care. I could look back at the TV and see someone stoke the fires of fear, let the ghettos crackle and blaze. The levity of youth is precious- I think we owe them that much.

We urge ourselves to the polls, to our jobs, and thank our fragile democracy not to have to explain why we dismissed thousands of judges, closed universities, and brought the real guns against one another.