Desert Poppies – A Poem

Golden Desert Poppies

Desert Poppies © 2013 Bo Mackison

Notice how present a flower is, how surrendered to life. ~ Eckhart Tolle

It is a beautiful place, this desert.

Hard to imagine its fullness of life, its diversity
until I explored her land each day.

Tread on mountain paths lightly frosted in mid winter
scrambled into washes torn asunder by summer flash floods.
Walked her rocky trails aware of each footfall,
threaded my way through deep crevice mazes.

I reach towards a saguaro to steady my balance
only to pull back in mild shock
imagining my hand pierced with the spines of a saguaro.

I stand in her washes in spring, the desert in her blossoming season,
admire the waving yellow poppies, their throats flushed with red,
their roots grounded in a chaos of rock and grit,
their silken petals a delicate offering amidst so much ruggedness.


Oh the places, the spaces in the desert; the discoveries, the inspiration in the desert.

Bird Life in the Desert


Gambel's Quail ©2016 Bo Mackison

Gambel’s Quail ©2016 Bo Mackison

I wonder at my daily sightings of the mama
and papa quail, their brood of chicks dart
like scattered billiards balls, each pecks
for seeds in the rocky soil.

On hot afternoons the adults settle into
the desert earth like ancient ocean puffer balls,
keeping watch, the chicks tucked under
a prickly pear cactus hideout.


Road Runner © 2016 Bo Mackison

Road Runner © 2016 Bo Mackison

He has the habits of a slap stick comedian,
a relative of acclaimed characters in
Western tall tales & Saturday morning cartoons.

I’ve seen him do a helicopter dance,
land with a bird in his beak.
He’ll do combat with a rattler…and win.

And yet in courting, he presents his intended
with a twig or blade of grass,
then the chase is on — ’til she decides yea or nay.

On cool desert mornings he spreads
his tail feathers, exposes dark flesh,
& warms himself with the heat of the sun.
An energy conservationist.

Praise the Day – A Desert Poem


Tree in Yellow © 2014 Bo Mackison

Praise the day, first light.

Praise the bird chatter. Cacophony.
Praise that word, a wild word, a burst of joy.

Praise the velvet acacias in yellow bloom,
its yellow fuzz paints the pavement.
Bees and stardust.
The tree alive with buzz and bee swarm.

The desert a sanctuary; the birds its choir.
The tree a storyteller; the bees her audience.

Sing praise. Sing praise.


It is good to begin the day with a praise song.

The Feel of the Path – A Desert Pilgrimage

Palo Verde

The Feel of the Path – A Desert Pilgrimage

I walk
Through thorn scrub and desert foothills
follow a winding arroyo into high canyon country.

I memorize my foot fall, draw a map, illusion of being in control,
glimpse lizards skittering into rocky crevices,
hold silent conversations with the crone saguaro.

Canyon boulders balance with precision,
boulders shoulder boulders, a giant’s cairn guiding my way.


Road to Nowhere

Tree skeletons loom above the grasses choked dry. Scant rainfall.
Agave, flowers spent, seed heads brittle brown
they remain standing tall, rooted in the ruts of an abandoned mine road.
Dust swirls. Land obscured. It does not require eyesight
to know one’s place. Vision will do.

A rattlesnake coils, rises from the earth,
iridescent eyes level with my belt.
A warning flicker, rattle dry like bamboo chimes,
then he disappears in the thick grasses of the arroyo.

I stand on the edge, breathless. Desert encounters.
Precipices. Edges. Stay in the moment.



This is a rough land, it fits my temperament.

Her wilderness is comfort,
her unexpected lushness is gift,
her relentless demands insist on awareness,
her solitude is rare blessing,
her sun-bleached land a tonic,
her dark night skies a reminder to rest.
It is in darkness that the light returns.

How ancient the land upon which I walk,
volcanic rock cold upon the hot desert earth.
Fossils of trilobites and shark teeth hint at
its story, once upon a time an ocean.

I commit to memory all that surrounds me,
Reminders of being home.

Even when I leave I stay.


Terry Tempest Williams writes,  “If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.” Yes, desert pilgrimage is sinking into the depths of self — getting lost, getting found, sometimes staying in the middle space between lost and found.





Holy – A Poem

Saguaro Spines ©2016 Bo Mackison

Saguaro Spines ©2016 Bo Mackison


No cavernous urban building required.
No echoes of voices preaching or admonishing.

Holy is sunlight sprinkling luminous colors throughout the land
and voices raised in song, joyful or penitent,
in praise or petition. Mix with rushing wind
through canyon slots, desert grasses. Add thunder. Holy.

Have you ever heard the wind whistle through cactus spines? Holy.
Inhaled the rain scent of desert dust and creosote shrubs? Holy.
Watched rock turn to glowing orange as sun sets over desert lands? Holy.
Praised the stars, ever-present and infinite in their number? Holy.

Holy is vermilion rock, gray-green plants,
black varnished cliffs, the soaring of a red-tailed hawk,
the skittering of a wood rat, the trill of a cactus wren.

Holy is the search for one’s inner calling, listening to a voice
nearly silenced. Holy is breathing fierce with full-on living.

Holy is exuberance. Holy is gratitude.
Holy is despondency. Holy is hanging on.

Holy is emotion.
Holy anger. Holy outrage.

Holy is not held within godly boundaries;
holy is the full embrace of one’s humanity.

Holy is the extra-ordinary in the ordinary of the everyday.

This moment. Yes
this very moment.


Annie Dillard writes, “In any instant the sacred may wipe you with its finger.” I find the sacred in the swipe of nature’s finger…in the desert, in the writing of poetry.