Simmons B. Buntin





Antler Among Poppies

On a field of desert poppies
          I learned to watch
                    for the finer forms:

cholla spines spilling
          from a body all
                     joints, or barrel cactus shin-

deep, wild hyacinth twined
          among wicked thorns.
                     Who but the buzzards

truly survey the land?
          Who but the scythe-winged
                     spirits know the old,

old blade that is death?
          This afternoon
                     that curved shadow caught

my heel, or so
          I thought. I bent
                     to find an antler, three-pronged

and bleached among the sulfur
          blooms. What I want
                     to say is that I left

the sharp prize after measuring its heft.
          What I think
                     is that one sacrifice across a plain

of seasonal brilliance is enough.
          But I faltered
                    under the gaze of those dark birds,

under the spell
          of chicory and mesquite.
                    Kneeling, I clasped the antler:

rising, I crossed back
          to the treacherous edge
                    of that beautiful, transient field.

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Sting

                    Pocked
then sealed
                    the under-
                                        ground wombs
of Sonoran bees
                    with names like
                                        Diadosia ronconis &
Melissodes paucipuncta
                    are at a loss
                                        for profit
That is there is
                    no honey &
                                        no hive —
a thousand species
                    solitary
                                        except that ritual
that flower-mad dance
                    that risk of sting
                                        on sweet sting
& in a desert
                    in Israel
                                        ground-dwelling bees
milk
                    the nectar from
                                        rich blooms
A thousand
                    species there
                                        too
& like our
                    Tumacacori valley
                                        also a wall
to keep a people
                    out —
                                        & also too high
for the low-flying bees
                    to cross
                                        or cross-fertilize
the crops
                    grown south
                                        to raise
mad profits
                    and feed
                                        madder mouths
& how’s that
                    for fertile
                                        justice

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Thorn

          But he that does not grasp the thorn
          Should never crave the rose.

                                 — Anne Bronte

1.

Unless the rose
is thornless, the stem wine-
bottle smooth & burgundy—a scion singing
                    pinot noir
                    cabernet

Unless from that stem
the leaves fall like tendrils, laced & lancelot

                              Unless the blooms are
                    champagne
                    double clustered —
heavy in their own delight
                              and yours?

That is a rose worth craving
                    & planting
                              in an Arizona
mining camp                                        circa 1855

                              The Chinese rose
dug deep by a Scottish bride is Tombstone

          (the outlaw town of the single
thornless tree in a desert
                    otherwise drunk with thorns)

2.

Rather: desert
                                Drunk
                                                   with acacias
                     that weave arroyos into wicked paths
                     that cluster like outlaws

Before the moon sleeps
with its lover
                                                      Cereus
I want to memorize their names
                    winter thorn
                    sweet acacia
                    river wattle
                    guajillo
                    cat claw
                    tésota
                    mimosa
                    prickly Moses
                    white thorn
                    camel thorn
                    desert carpet
                    dead finish
                                                  repeat

3.

Unless the rose is thornless
                    my silver-
beaked clippers would not sing
                                        the sheering
song—preserve the winter
                                        sprig
captured from neighbor’s yard—
                    of full-moon night & leaves glossy
                    if not glowing

Does this merlot branch reach
back to the bride’s own bouquet?

                                        Romantic
the thought
                    though untrue

Unless the thorn stems
from acacia
                    & the spindle-tipped trellis
craves the Scottish cluster
of her heart wine-tinged & blooming
                    &
                                                  repeat

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Amazon.com

Spooky, my wife says. They know my secrets.
This morning, as the light scratches
across the keyboard, I browse the homepage
and find my own glittering recommendations: cherry-
handled rose pruners, their glossy alloy beaks
spring-tuned; new music by the Silos, a Top 10
on Dan Steely’s alt-college country rock list;
and the books, the wonderful unfathomable books—
three or three-thousand sensuously bound
classics of love, mystery, and safe passage
into Sonora, Mexico. I hover above
No. 1,897,615: Click here to purchase.

                                                  Why not?
Even the Pinacate Press in Lukeville, Arizona
knows its wares are sung to me, the guy idling
eagerly outside Sonoyta’s port-of-entry,
travel guide buried in the trunk, the air burning
with recommendations.

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