Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Teddy-bear Cholla


Out in the desert,

where you left me,

I turned to cholla.


I looked soft to touch,

but anyone who tried

got the wicked barb

you left behind.


I crawled my way

across México,

not once,

but twice—


where nurses

exchanged the sweet mints

in my purse

to meds.


I fled,

and found myself again—

peering into the

the dark, dewy eyes

of children

selling chicle

on dirt roads

near the freeway

where the poems lay.


I gave all my money, eagerly,

into their beautiful brown hands.


Now, the dive bar,

turned used bookstore,

holds my chair

with a well-read copy of

The Captain’s Verses—


my pirate saying,

pull up, mi rama robada,


I’m buying.



© 2024 Jennifer Wagner


Teddy-bear cholla has a soft, cuddly appearance, but is quite a prickly cactus.

“rama robada” is a reference to Pablo Neruda’s poem, “La Rama Robada” (“The Stolen Branch”) in The Captain’s Verses.


For Fireblossom’s Word Garden


dverse Poetics:  Left in the Lurch



  1. One of the things that I love most about your poetry, Jennifer, is your economy of words. Some poets serve up double loaded cheeseburgers with jumbo fries and a double thick shake, leading to a food coma, while your poems are sweet plums. Moreover, sweet plums on a dry day in the desert. For all your brevity, somehow you pack a feast of feeling and imagery into each one of your spare poems.

    I love this entire poem, but my favorite bits are "where the poems lay" and the whole ambiance of movement across a great and challenging physical and emotional distance. The nurses with their mints put me in mind of Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy." And that e ding is at once casual and victorious. Your fangirl will now subside.

  2. Reads like a dream-vision, Jennifer, beautifully tracing a hard-won journey to redemption, figured in the innocence and beauty of children, "near the freeway/where the poems lay"-- one of the most luminous phrasings in the poem. Love how this becomes a homage to the romance of words, of poetry, which turns the sordidness of betrayal, the world itself, into the sublime. Just a spectacular ever-so-satisfying read!

  3. Jennifer, I am loving your poems for Shay's Word List these days.........they are amazing. Your pen knows what it is doing, and it does it so very well.

  4. So glad in the end there was no bitterness. A beautiful write, Jennifer.

  5. You lived that poetry so that we do...

  6. A very accomplished poem. The following stanza is understated brilliance.

    I looked soft to touch,

    but anyone who tried

    got the wicked barb

    you left behind.

  7. Love this clever meandering tale! And as Shay does, you write with only the most essential words. It is a true gift, I think, when a poet can do this.

  8. I read this three times loving it more each time and not being able to place completely what was grabbing my writers heart so, until I saw what Shay said and it hit me; your use of words in their perfect briefness is magnificent Jennifer! Truly lovely writing!

  9. This is outstanding, Jennifer!
    I love, "near the freeway
    where the poems lay.

  10. "near the freeway where the poems lay" Love that line. The whole poem is beautiful, exquisitely written with such few words speaking more than I can take in with one reading.

  11. A literary journey - exquisite. (Pirates smile) you and your writing are something to treasure.

  12. This is really good. I've read it three times now, better each time.

  13. Damn, I love your poems, Jennifer. You take me on a trip and I always relate! This one is beautiful. I love the momentum of it, that breath of freedom it exudes.


Thank you for your thoughts!