Joan Koerper

A stylized watercolor cactus image I created during pandemic. Cactus, watercolor, desert gems, sand stones, aloe Vera, succulent life, tranquility, naturaleza

“Untitled,” by Veronica Ortega

Joshua Trees in Lone Pine Canyon

In the shadows of the Mormon Rocks,
slow-moving reminders our landscape
was once somewhere else,
a sacred circle of charred Joshua Trees
stands stark against the San Andreas Rift
in Lone Pine Canyon.
Skeletons. Victims of the 2016 Blue Cut Fire.

Tributes to the lives and remarkable endurance
of this tree-like species of yucca.
A member of the Lily family unique to this area:
the desert southwest of the United States.
Joshua Trees can live for more than five hundred years.
The oldest known living Joshua Tree was one thousand years old.
While canyon life once again will return this spring
it will take sixty years for another Joshua Tree just to reach
maturity. If it survives, a hundred years to replace the burned tree.

I will not live to see it.
I can only remember their former beauty
and hope for the future.

To the Joshua Trees before me, ravaged by fire
and the few who escaped,
what knowledge and wisdom are you willing to share with me
as I contemplate your lives? As I contemplate mine?
Do I have one iota of your maturity, fortitude or beauty?
Teach me. Please.
Shadows of blackened outstretched arms fall across mine.
My heart cries for you, and for our loss.

Previously published in print, in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry, Spring, 2021.

The Queen of Soul Crosses over the Mountain

In the drought-stricken San Gabriel Mountains
seldom-heard thunder rolls through Swarthout Valley.
Cumulus clouds, graceful in brilliant blue sky
drifting over Blue Ridge, are gradually overtaken
by sluggish, dark, gray, rain-laden patches from the north.

Within the hour, the forest is in motion.
A kaleidoscope of nonstop lightning strikes,
sometimes a few feet away. Thunder resounds.
Torrential windblown rain
obscures trees and slopes
apples, ripped from limbs, sail to the ground
bird feeders are swept from their perches
Spruce Street becomes Spruce River
laden with rocks, dirt, tree limbs, pine cones
a downhill flash flood.
Squirrel takes shelter in the wheel well of my car.

The cabin shudders atop the San Andreas Fault.
Everywhere, there is jubilation, dancing wind,
rushing water, forging new rivulets in granite.

Arising from the Universal Vibration
to form its own unique presence
and divine composition,
like this storm,
with a nourishing roar
Aretha Franklin returns to
the Universal Chord
forever in our hearts and souls,
eternal in the stillness.
Quivering. Pulsating, Living.
Honoring 8.16.2018

Previously published in print, in The Avocet: A Journal of Nature Poetry, Summer, 2021.

The author has lived in the Inland Empire for over 36 years, residing in Redlands, Riverside, and, for the last nine years, in Wrightwood. Published in all genres, she had been part of the Inlandia Institute since the beginning of the effort.