The Joshua tree was given its name by the Mormon pioneers, who were reminded of the Biblical Joshua of old lifting his arms to God, when they saw the high-lifting branches of the tree.
Old Joshua tree, you lift wild limbs
as a shield from the heat of the sun,
still as a statue, standing in sand,
named after Joshua of old.
Wild jack rabbits scamper and jump
around your shaggy brown bark,
scorpions crawl up and down your bent spine
and lurk in your odd-jutting arms.
Your pointed quills are home to lizards and wrens
and snakes slither past those cruel ends.
Yet just yesterday your sharp swords brought death
to thousands who stained the land red.
You marched around Jericho day after day
raising your bugles high, then you
gave the command, the walls tumbled down,
and your troops slaughtered all those inside.
You smote all the country, all of the hills,
with the edge of your mighty sword,
slaying soldiers and mothers and babes in their beds,
and kings, even thirty and one.
Joshua, recall how you lifted your eyes to exclaim,
“Look—the sun stands still!”
Even the sky’s light refused to go out
as it witnessed such carnage below.
Now you’re alone, epic Joshua tree,
grown old and smitten with time.
A lonely silhouette with bent twisted limbs
against a red flaming sky.
No mighty armies can you command
no promised land can you seek.
Only branches braced high against a searing hot sun
to block scorching memories.
Do you lift your prickly arms high in praise
for the heated battles you’ve known?
Or to beg forgiveness for the carnage you’ve wrought,
and seek peace to quench your parched soul?
Many years I’ve lived the single life,
these long years since children and divorce,
a life complete with friends, laughs, and loves.
But not love.
Through these years I’ve wondered,
Is true love, the kind of love that lasts and endures
and often extolled in fairy tales,
merely a fantasy?
Then as my 66th year breaks over me,
love arrives, alive with hopes and promises
of fantasy springing to life,
with a new sky, and a new dawn.
We love quickly, perhaps too quickly,
before exploring the flaws that compose us both.
Then we slowly discover each imperfection
as we undress each other in the bed of familiarity.
Fantasy, so long sought, grinds slowly to reality,
complete with shards of gray and flashes of bright.
Ecstasy, tears, a day is still a day.
Did I really expect a different sunrise?
Then a new hand reaches toward me.
Fingers flicker faintly on mine.
“Fly away with me” he coaxes,
“We would be good together.”
If I reach forward to grasp this new hand,
will I discover yet another fantasy?
Bearing unknowns and hapless hopes,
a misty castle in the sky?
I turn back to the love
sleeping close at my side,
taking deep and steady breaths
in the early dawning light.
I look past illusive fantasy
and into his face filled with reality,
as the morning sun floods the room
and illuminates us.