Fouquieria splendens

Michel Wing

For Char

I saw it in January, tinged with frost,

that bundle of sticks

stuck into earth as if someone


unshouldered their load of firewood,

planted on end to mark their spot,

went off in search of water.


I thought only rain could bring life.

But this new place surprised me —

those sticks began to bloom


in the midst of swirling dust. Ocotillo,

clustered offstage in groups for

their moment of splendens,


brilliance, glittering brightness.

The drag queens of the desert,

ready for their spring show.


I walk down my street. The women

wave red boas at me as I call them

by name — Slimwood, Coach Whip,


Desert Coral, Flaming Sword, Little

Torch. Hummingbirds loop and spin

around their heads, fervent fans.


These girls are beautiful in their finery,

towering over all others of the desert.

Do not presume, though, I warn you —


that bright dress, those alluring eyes,

that siren song, is no invitation for closer

inspection. The ocotillo has a barbed


tongue; she wears armor beneath

her dress, and beware those

stiletto heels. After the show,


when the lip synch is done,

all the nectar dispersed, ocotillo

will shed yellow and red costume,


cover herself in a green robe

to sit at the bar, take a well earned

drink for her dry throat.


But this queen, gowned or not,

winter or spring, offstage or on,

still reigns.




Michel Wing is a writer of poetry and creative nonfiction. They bring all of their life experiences to the page (disability, being gender queer, survivorship) and write towards truth, however that may express itself at any given moment, guided always by their faithful service dog, Rocky.