O Saguaro

The significance of the saguaro is that, in our songs, our ceremonies and our stories, the saguaros, we consider them people. We believe that they are our ancestors, so they are pretty much like our brothers and sisters,” Tanisha Tucker says as she sits on a picnic bench in the southwest section of Saguaro National Park West, processing a new batch of picked fruit.

1 998 photo shows Stella Tucker using a ku’ipad, made from saguaro ribs, to knock down ripe fruits from the top of a saguaro at Saguaro National Park. Stella’s daughter, Tanisha, has taken over that role now.
Photo by Sarah Prall / Arizona Daily Star 1988


O Saguaro

Copyright 2023 James C Horner

I came upon your name,
Tanisha, O’odham woman,
someone who could help me
talk with a saguaro.

Where will our water come from?

when will it rise?

how it will bloom flowers,

creamy-white in June?

how much will the drought stunt the fruit

and blight our youth?

Could you ask a saguaro my question?

Talk with one anyway you can.

Where will the water come from

in our desert drowning with people?

Here is my outsider’s song.


Your ribs expand

water rises

first your flower

then your red fruit,

struck by your ribs

swung by picker-women.


Standing tall

ancestral life

enduring drought

like O’odham.


Your ribs expand

water rises

first your flower

reddens your fruit.

Singing, drinking,

wine-making men.


Standing tall

ancestral life

waiting for monsoon

like O’odham.


Ribs expanded

water risen

gone your flowers

all picked your fruit

all drunk your wine,

women, men danced.


Standing tall

ancestral life

He who grows toward the setting-sun”

like O’odham.


O Saguaro,

O’odham young people love you!

Kids’ shirts and hands stained red

eating your hot sticky syrup

spread on small bread.

Boys and girls giggle and tease.

Smart phones not seen here.”


Here ends my song.

What’s your message

for this worried

drinker of hope?





Ancient Tohono O’odham Custom Of Saguaro Fruit Harvesting Kept Alive

By Tyson Hudson Special to the Arizona Daily Star

Jul 13, 2019 Updated Jul 27, 2019

1 thought on “O Saguaro

  1. Very lovely poem! It captures the exotic nature of saguaros and their importance to the desert environment.

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