Desert Ironwood Monologue
Come human, you half-angel, half-monkey,
Come gather, come grind, come saw,
Come dislocate that which you will relocate in elegy.
Come cut and gather what you will fail to return,
For I am not loved, but I am needed.
Sell my hard temple to make a chair out of me
So that you can sit and look out at the pink-eyed sky,
Thinking, wouldn’t it be nice to sit against me and
Listen to the arid dialogue of doves wishing
They were bulletproof in my branches, which is
A wish as public as the sky dropping seeds of light
Quietly on my branches growing pink clusters.
“Almost always at desert washes where water is more available,” writes Stan Tekiela.
Growing to about thirty feet, but perhaps more typically between fifteen and twenty-five feet, the ironwood divides near its base into many branches and has a “round irregular crown.” It has blue-gray-green leaves with curved thorns at their base. Flowers in late spring or early summer are lavender to pink to white. The bark is gray.
There’s a national monument named after this tree and for good reason. It is long-lived (up to a thousand years) and hefty—the wood is so dense that “one cubic foot weighs 66 pounds,” according to A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona. It “is one of the heaviest woods in the world.” So the name is apt. This gravitas means the ironwood (1) does not float on water; (2) makes long-burning firewood and coals; and (3) is used by the Seri to make figurines.
“Desert Ironwood Monologue” by Jeevan Narney from The Sonoran Desert, A Literary Field Guide edited by Eric Magrane, Christopher Cokinos, and Paul Mirocha. © 2016 the Arizona Board of Regents. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.