Ferocactus wislizenii

Fishhook barrel cactus

Ann M. Penton



[biznaga de agua]


Just imagine early last century

when I rooted here—

I, this one biznaga elder

which some call Ferocactus wislizenii.

Arizona wasn’t a state.

Saguaro wasn’t a national park.


Now, just imagine,

you, yourself in my place

never moving at all

in over one hundred years—

never, no matter what—

dark freezing nights, light winter snows,

drought, hailstones, monsoons,

nearby lightning strikes, wildfires,

days of searing hundred degree heat.

No way to seek shelter, choose shade,

or leave this high Sonoran Desert.


Barrel-shaped, a survivor,

I’m protected by protruding ribs

and long, curved spines—

like fishhooks fierce, piercing.

Just imagine me tough, squatting here,

year by year, slowly growing bulkier, heavier.

(Wouldn’t you, if you never, ever moved?)


Also called Compass Barrel, I do lean a bit,

my tip pointing somewhat southwest.

Troubled desert trekkers would be wise

to rely on this down-to-earth guidance,

available anytime, whatever the weather,

whatever might mar visibility

of possible pointers in the sky.


Catching many an eye by day,

my regal crown sparkles with golden fruits,

jewel-like imitations of miniature pineapples,

smooth and tasty to hungry desert denizens—

if they can just avoid my wild array of spines.

A headdress blazing with red-orange flowers

tops off my late-summer costume.


You don’t have to just imagine.

I’m easy to find. Count on my not flitting away

or hiding underground or behind a rock.

Trust me: I’m not going anywhere.




Ann M. Penton (Green Valley, AZ), a retired college teacher, happily discovered the Poetry Center shortly after arriving recently from Wisconsin. She has many published or award-winning poems. Other interests include photography, nature, table tennis.