Opening to the Sacred – A Poem

Wupatki - Finding the Open Spaces

Opening to the Sacred © 2014 Bo Mackison

A poem is . . . an act of devotion and holy rebellion; a source of healing and a journey of risk. ~ Edveeje Fairchild

I enter emboldened.

I come in holy rebellion.

Enough groveling at feet of stone-struck statues
incapable of emotions, no welcoming nod,
refusing to utter soothing words as balm to my aching heart
or offer celestial embrace.

Safe behind barred doors,
chain link fences,
security-guards on watch.

From whom do you seek protection?

The penitent, the silenced one, the hesitant seeker?

I rise in holy rebellion.
I will not bow nor cover my face with
a black mantilla and your rules.

I do not come in holy rebellion.

I am Holy Rebellion!

On The Road to Why — A Poem


Brittlebush © 2013 Bo Mackison

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. ~ Ernest Hemingway

Checking the map, 112 miles to Why, then south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Highway 86, Ajo Highway, I head west on the road of roadside memorials
and shrines, over a hundred I photographed a few years ago.

I travel through urban sprawl, then open space.
Silver Star Road, brown earth, barbed wire fences.
Robles Junction.
Water puddles in the irrigated fields at Buckelew Farms.

Fuller Road. Battered mailboxes along the road, a row of scraped paint,
crushed metal, gunshot holes and red flags.
Where are the shrines and crosses? They’ve disappeared.
Scraped off the desert earth.

Kitt Mountain is due west, dotted with white observatories,
celestial connections on the highest peaks.
Telephone poles string across the desert scrub. Earthly connections.

Tucson Rifle Club. Members Only.
Hayhook Ranch Road. Ranch For Sale.
Watch For Animals Next 54 Miles.

Yellow bundles of brittlebush and desert marigolds crowd the median strip.
Gravel piles stands where once there were roadside memorials,
the adjacent desert has been scraped level for a road widening project.

A bush of orange mallow, waving stalks of purple pestomen,
white sacred datura, like bridal bouquets dropped along the road.
Tohono O’odham Nation. Green desert, red earth.

San Pedro Road. Coyote Trading Store, open for business no gas.
Asphalt shoulders, graded hills with rolls of burlap hold back the earth.
Where are the memorials? Relocated? Destroyed?

Pan Tak Road
Kitt Peak Ahead, Turn Left
Road construction Expect delays

The road is wide, the shoulders wide,
and safer for the driving living.
Fewer memorials on the side of the road.

Saguaros relocated from the easement, twenty feet tall, propped with 2 by 4s.
By law, saguaros must be relocated.
A saguaro must face its original direction, or it will die,
and become another road casualty.

Gouged earth. One giant saguaro still stands
upon the graded bank, its roots exposed and twisted in the air.
Yellow earth movers shovel the ancient earth into piles.

This is progress. A safe road is a good road.
A good road is a safe road.
Smooth and homogenized, the desert tamed.

Three hawks soar high. Far enough west, the road narrows.
Red plastic ribbons flutter from branches marked for the bulldozer.
But for now grasses encroach over the yellow lines.
Mesquite and tree cholla crowd the roadside.


A single white cross remains, decorated with bright flowers.
The peak of Baboquivari, I’itoi’s sacred mountain, pierces the desertscape.
Border Patrol. Their green-striped white truck is parked
under a mesquite while they search the scrub.

Littering Unlawful
You Are Entering Sells, Arizona, Population 2734
Komkcʼeḍ ʼe-Wa:ʼosidk, Capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation
The O’odham name means Tortoise Got Wedged.

Indian Oasis School Baboquivari District

Watch For Animals Next 10 Miles
Papago Assembly of God

Highway 19 Junction, Hospital Here
The Shell gas station pumps regular for 3.47.
Two wild horses, white and shaggy, graze along the road,
unperturbed by passing trucks.

Eugene Tashquinth Livestock Complex hosts
76th Annual Tohono O’odham Rodeo
January 26 – February 4, 2014

Tree cholla forest.
Yellow flowering mesquite, seed beans swing in midday breeze.
Road to Nolia. Turkey vultures. Triple decker saguaro.

Quijotoa. A historical marker tells me
it is Papago for Mountain Shaped Like a Carrying Basket.
Carrying Basket had pockets of gold and silver.
And a mining boom in 1883.

Ghost towns. Logan City, New Virginia, Brooklyn, Allen City,
there was only a small pocket of precious metal.
The desert reclaims the abandoned.

Highway 15 Junction to Santa Rosa Casa Grande.
Desert sprawl, yellow blossoming brittlebush color the cactus floor.
The road narrows, ocotillo arch over the pavement. Toothpick saguaros.
Quijotoa Pentecostal Church of God.

Red and purple bows tied to mesquite branches,
remaining traces of a roadside memorial.
The dirt is leveled, the pull-off blocked with a rock pile.

Flashing lights on a Park Ranger’s truck slow oncoming traffic.
Three teen runners jog in the truck’s exhaust fumes,
one carries a banner. Unity Runners.

Road to Pisinemo.
San Si:mon. Tohono O’odham High School.
San Simon Health Center.

Flash Flood Area Next 10 Miles
Why 18 miles. Ajo 28 miles
Chain cholla glitter silver in the sun.

HIWAYRVPRK next road. Shuck Toak Road
Desert Diamond Casino, asphalt parking lot.
Coyote Howl RV Park. Abandoned.

Road in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument ©2016 Bo Mackison

Road in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument ©2016 Bo Mackison

Highway Junction 86/85
Lukeville 27 miles. 10 miles to Ajo
Approaching Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, A Biosphere Reserve

12:46 pm. March 18. 86˚F.
Blue skies. Windy.
Relentless sun bleaches color from the desert.

The organ pipes loom tall,
massive and thick, multi-armed.
Alien. Grotesque. Beautiful.


Not so much a poem, more a travel log.

At Tumacácori – A Poem


Tumacacori Mission Garden ©2016 Bo Mackison

Look past electric wires, telephone poles,
a coiled rubber hose, the 19th century stone wall
cracked open for a water spigot?

Don’t listen to the traffic on the interstate up the hill,
rumbling cars speeding from Nogales to the Border Patrol checkpoint.

Silence the background and search for sacred silence in this sacred space.
Block the sounds of horns blaring,
ignore the heated words of the couple standing near the rose bush.


Hear rustling leaves, whistling wind?
See shimmer in the cotttonwood trees?

These winds were in this garden, long ago.
The trees now camouflaging sparrows’ nests, they were here.
The fountain — the garden’s heart — it was here with its rippling waters.
Dust blowing from the Tumacácori Mountains – the dust was here.

Those mountains? They stand in silence and watch. They have watched all these years.
Arched doorways still shelter the walkway,
a courtyard protects a painted statue of the Virgin with her Babe.
They continue to watch.


Tumacacori Mission, Tumacacori Mountains ©2016 Bo Mackison

The yucca, the tepary beans trailing along the earth.
The nut tree saplings,
swaying in rhythm with the winds.
They witnessed. They continue to witness.

The che-che-chee of the sparrows mix with voices
raised in song — of praise and protest,
in elation and humiliation, in gratitude and in mourning.

I hear their voices, I hear the choir lift their voices in song.
The rising alleluias, the longing amens.

Voices. Do you hear them?
Che-che-cheee sing alleluia.
Siss-siss-siss, the leaves dance, twirl along the dusty path.

Hearts dancing, hold your gaze on the star hunter,
poised, aiming his arrow at the full moon.
Hidden voices in the whistling winds.
Hidden eyes, watching Tumacácori.





It is here that Jesuit Father Kino, traveling north from Mexico (New Spain) visited a settlement of  O’odham and founded Mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori in 1691.
It is here the mission remained for 157 years, a complicated existence of conversion, Apache conflict, disease, harsh conditions.
It is here where I sit in the restored gardens, stand in the mission interior and I listen. I hear.

Cupped Hands – A Blessing

Reverence ©2014 Bo Mackison

Reverence ©2014 Bo Mackison

Cup my hands together,
hands that labor, create, plant, push away,
and hold gently what these days offer.

Cup my hands,
bones aching, muscles cramping, fingers numb.
Cup my hands.


There is a vessel, a container.

Two shallow bowls woven of grasses,
threaded together to form a hollow container
cupped like hands in prayer and supplication.

Baskets, bowls, vessels of prayer.

This vessel a sacred tradition.
Ancient peoples wove these bowls two centuries ago,
gift offered to those highly honored, beloved, much revered.

This vessel traveled as companion on the journey
to the place beyond.

The vessel held nothing –
nothing visible –
yet it contained much of great worth.
This shallow woven basket wass imbued with sacred messages
to the honored one from family and community.

Words prayed into the vessel before the last stitches sealed it.

“Respected one.”
“Wise one.”


Moved deeply by the intention of this sacred ritual,
I cup my hands together. Breathe words into my hands,
whisper my most impassioned blessings.
Words of blessings with which I honor myself.

Sacred words, most valued gift,  held in sacred vessel.

“Beloved one.” “Worthy one.”
“Courageous one.” “Awakened one.”


This was inspired by the poem Blessing the Fragments by Jan Richardson which begins:

“Cup your hands together,
and you will see the shape
this blessing wants to take.

Basket, bowl, vessel:
it cannot help but hold itself
open to welcome what comes…”

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.