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the tragic life of a roadside ornament
by joel j verdon

Isabella - a short poem of sorts that arose from the simple act of harvesting young agave along a highway in urban Arizona. Agave, when approaching death, grow a long stalk from its center on which countless numbers of young grow, are nourished, and are dispersed. The mother plant then dies.


Just days before the spring equinox, under the protection and love of the Arizona Department of Highways, Isabella began the fleeting task of recreating life in her image. From her soul grew a stalk no less than seven feet high. She littered the surface with her progeny, a plentitude of agave young numbering in the thousands.

Under the canopy of the 202 bridge on Van Buren, Isabella willed her very essence into the stalk and, therewith, into her offspring. She spoke to them as the days traveled into a dry April of that year:

“You will live and thrive and grow to love this place,” gently filling them with hope that life would always be good and full and wonderful.

In time, as the long star-filled nights gave way to the cruel heat of daylight, her spirit waned. She longed to tell them the truth of life, everything she knew to be true.

“It will be hard, my young ones. This life is brutal to the end. You will struggle and fight for survival because that is the only way prosperity flows. God will listen and sometimes guide you through life, but it is from your own soul, your own essence, that the will to live comes.”

And with that they left her.

Her thousands of children scattered by wind and the Arizona Department of Highways. Isabella watched helplessly as they fought for survival. From her solitude, her shade under the bridge, from birth to death, three survived.

Her hope brought to the underpass a bright yellow Karmangia – unlike anything she had ever seen, bigger than any animal she had known before. From this bug came two of its own progeny under a crisp desert-night sky. She knew nothing of what these beings talked. But she hoped. She willed her young to survive.

“Please,” she asked God as these two beings held and caressed a handful of her young cradling them in their palms as they retreated.

“Live,” she whispered.


On the surface - collected, reasonable, articulate and well travelled. If you stick around you'll experience the many meanings behind essence, balance, and passion.

more about joel j verdon


tracey kelley
3.17.05 @ 10:56p

Harvesting agave?

Is this a cash crop?

Karmangia + bug. Very clever.

joel verdon
3.17.05 @ 11:05p

A Mexican woman I work with does, in fact, harvest young agave from roadside plants. They are easily rooted in water for several months, potted, then sold at flea markets. The agave planted by the state/local highway folks is an incredibly durable subspecies (with excellent genes!), and quite expensive to purchase. Isabella is (in real life) my friend and last year she harvested/SOLD several thousand of them. Capitalism at its finest...I picked just three for my own yard. Wanna place an order? :) (I'm thrilled you know your automobiles)

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