Sphaeralcea ambigua

Desert globemallow

Melissa Buckheit


Globe’s Mallow Tale


Once, when there was nothing but ocean,

water and ice,

and the desert was cold and not yet alone,

the Globemallow floated under glass, its globe a terrarium,

imagined as airtight,

cresting upon waves, the bloom preserved

for millennia.


Roadside scrap, scrub, coated with gas

exhaust, its glass landed

in New Mexico, Utah, Nevada,

Southern Colorado, The Sonoran

Basin, what was Mexico. What was

ocean, what was



The empty surmounted

until, in the flowing air,

the bee. The bee landed

in the fine hairs of the mallow’s leaves,

to begin the orgiastic dance;

legs wrapped around the stamen, both vibrate,

mallow and bee.


Landed and named: Sphaeralcea ambigua

subsp. ambigua, Desert Globemallow

Sphaeralcea incana, Grey Globemallow, Soft Globemallow

Caliche Globemallow, Sore Eye

Mallow, Sphaeralcea laxa, S. ribifolia, Sore

Eye ‘Poppy’, Mal de ojo, Malvia, Apricot Mallow—

orange, Parish Mallow, Rose Mallow—pink, white,

lavender, magenta or red. S. aculeata,

S. rocacea, S. rugosa, Grey-hairy. Plantas

muy malas, vibrational color of the Buddha.


The Globe will soothe you,

crush the leaves to line your shoes

or drink a tea of Creosote and Mallow

for appetite. Use as a poultice, to soothe

bleeding, blisters; the fine hairs of the leaves

will also break the eye into redness. Along roadsides,

old washes, in parking medians, spotting

the deserts.


When the Spanish found

the Globemallow, in what was once

Mexico, they called it not

‘bad plant’ but ‘very

bad plant’. The stellate hairs

like small sabers, the fine thorns of Hedgehog

Cacti, will lodge in the eye,

their wet sap, emollient, drawing

redness. The English

were diplomatic, using Latin names,

scientific with an English designation. They

added ‘Sore Eyes’, for the flower

was no longer evil. The Globe’s Mallow

was only its effect. For

we all wish to be consumed.




Melissa Buckheit is a poet, dancer, photographer, English Professor and Bodywork Therapist. She is the author of Noctilucent (Shearsman, 2012), and a chapbook, Arc (The Drunken Boat, 2007). Her writing has appeared in nth position, Blue Fifth Review, The Drunken Boat, Sinister Wisdom, Shearsman Magazine, and Sonora Review, among others. She teaches at the University of Arizona and Pima College.