Pamela Ahlen

Even if Lightning Decapitates Their Crowns They’ll Live

Some people call them petticoat palm,
but petticoat seems too frilly a name
for two hundred year old Amazons—
like Agave, high born, or Asteria, of the sky,
or Anymone, who drew water from a rock—
broad-hipped wonder-women
ten to twenty feet wide, shooting sixty feet high,
never shedding their grey-green skirts
that cloak the trunks in split-end shag—

palms almost indestructible,
home to spiny lizards, snakes and voles,
hideout for bats, western orioles—
and if I hadn’t twisted an ankle
I would have paid them less mind,
wouldn’t have slow-motioned along a flat oasis path
or sat on a loaf of rock craning my neck in awe
exactly where ancient Cahuilla women
once ground the fruit or ate it raw.

I hope the giant palm borer beetle
gags on palm pith and dies
beneath the largest stand
of Washingtonia filiferia in the world.
I hope we invasive humans not suck all the water dry
and the Andreas fault not shift.
And to Coyote—please
continue to spread Palm Canyon seeds far and wide
with all the dignity deserved Amazonian nobility.

petticoat palmimage from page 68 of 21st annual catalogue seeds & plants for 1906 (1906)

to the guy who said a canyon’s just a hole in the ground

I say walnut,
chestnut, pecan,
I say smorgasbord
almond, lemon, honeycomb—
toasted flax and
lip smacking tangerine,
I say citrus multitudes—no
barren arid nothingness—
more a Crayola plum and cinnamon,
saffron, chili pepper red,
a big feed of Sherwin-Williams greens.
I say you must be joking,
a canyon’s an abundance, a promise, a thanksgiving.

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