The saguaro is Arizona. ~Herb & Dorothy McLaughlin, c. 1973
Along the mountain ridges,
Across the desert floor;
Arms like verdant armor,
Stalwarts guard our door.
Shading for the lizard,
Haven for the wren,
Source of inspiration,
For past and present men.
~Earl Bloss, “Saguaros,” in Arizona Highways, March 1973
You know you’re an Arizona native when you “hug” a cactus only once in your lifetime. ~Nancy Dedera, quoted in You Know You’re an Arizona Native, When…, compiled by Don Dedera, 1993
Bonfires of the evening sun
Merge in final unquenched glory
From horizon up to heaven,
While grotesque saguaro fingers
Paint lofty silhouettes against the sky.
~Helen Castle, “Saguaro at Sunset,” in Arizona Highways, March 1973
That afternoon we reached a small town, an oasis of struggling greenery in the desert… There were saguaros everywhere. I had never seen these cacti in such numbers… Their flesh varied in color from tropical green to gunmetal. The churchyard was full of massive plants standing sentinel. Each cactus had a different number of limbs, ranging from a single erect arm to a crown of fat, prickly oblongs… ~Abby Geni, The Wildlands, 2018
Here is a master’s etching
In the crimson flood of dawn—
A thousand monks are marching
With a prayer to cheer them on.
Their pleading arms are reaching
Ever upward thru the haze;
I think they must be preaching
For the souls of other days…
~Don Maitland Bushby (1900–1969), “Desert Monks (Impressions of the Sahuarro),” c. 1958 [Bushby was adopted as “Chief Whispering Pine.”
As in a children’s game
a sudden command
in the desert night
must have stopped
who now stand
fixed in a landscape
like strange people
from other times
and other places.
~Jeanne DeLamarter Bonnette, “The Saguaros,” in Arizona Highways, September 1970
Sometimes a saguaro looks like it’s giving the middle finger to the world, an “F you, it’s hot out here!” ~Terri Guillemets, “Take a hike,” 1996