Revisiting Joshua Tree National Park by Carolyn Martin


Revisiting Joshua Tree National Park
Twentynine Palms, California
by Carolyn Martin

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho
And the walls come tumblin’ down . . .
        — An African-American spiritual

The terrain hasn’t changed. The Cap still tilts.
The Skull glares over a parking lot.
The Jumbo Rocks? This careless pile nudged
from eons underground lazes in the sun.
It’s spring this drive around
and creamy-white bells stun
every limb of every namesake tree.

A million yuccas ring like ram horns
tumbling Canaan’s walls, stretching
spiky arms above the rocky seas,
parting lands promising for rabbits,
lizards, red-tailed hawks, and cactus wrens;
for natives, ranchers, miners, campers, climbers
dazed by heat and snow and spiraling stars
the Milky Way enfolds.

If Joshua only knew his name
would bloom across 1200 miles squared,
he might not have died despondent and alone.
His, the pride of place right here — above dunes
and valleys and monuments wind-shaped —
where water finds a way through desert faults
without a fight, without a second thought.

Previously published in the author’s collection Thin Places (Kelsay Books, 2017).

PHOTO: Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park, Mojave Desert, California. Joshua Trees are native to the Mojave Desert, thriving in the open grasslands of Queen Valley and Lost Horse Valley in Joshua Tree National Park. Photo by Jay George, used by permission. 

Joshua Tree

NOTE: Joshua Tree National Park is located in southeastern California, east of Los Angeles, near Palm Springs. It is named for the Joshua trees native to the Mojave Desert. Originally declared a national monument in 1936, Joshua Tree was redesignated as a national park in 1994 when the U.S. Congress passed the California Desert Protection Act. Encompassing a total of 790,636 acres (1,235.4 square miles), the park consists of 429,690 acres (671.4 square miles) of designated wilderness. The park includes parts of two deserts, each an ecosystem with characteristics determined primarily by elevation: the higher Mojave Desert and the lower Colorado Desert. The Little San Bernardino Mountains traverse the southwest edge of the park. For a virtual tour, visit 

PHOTO: Joshua Tree National Park, California, with blooming Joshua Trees. Photo by the author. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: On this return to Joshua Tree in March 2016, we were privileged to see the big “creamy white bells” blooming on the trees. An unexpected treat!

Carolyn Martin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: From associate professor of English to management trainer to retiree, Carolyn Martin is a lover of gardening and snorkeling, feral cats and backyard birds, writing and photography. Her poems have appeared in more than 125 journals throughout North America, Australia, and the UK. Her first chapbook, Nothing More to Lose, and her fifth poetry collection, The Catalog of Small Contentments, will be released by The Poetry Box in 2021. She is the poetry editor of Kosmos Quarterlyjournal for global transformation. Find out more at

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