Poetry Challenge, Day Five: Cactus


It seems fitting to conclude this five-day challenge with a poem about gardening – another art fraught with beauty, joy, and crushing disappointment.DSC_0010


I took you up thinking it would do us both good.
Needing little, you would bring
biblical beauty, near motionless calm, and,
if I treated you well, blooms to prove
the envy of the neighborhood. Instead,
that first year it rained from Valentine’s to June.
You sagged. I wept. Leeches thrived in the woodpile.


All honeymoons end, I told myself. The Noahs among you
stayed faithful. It seemed unkind to judge just because
small spots of mold marred your handsome limbs;
mere cosmetics should not spell the end of love!
We spent our first winter quietly, companionably I thought.
As the little greenhouse heater warmed my feet
I painted flowerpots for you, thinking myself daft,
slave to forces clearly beyond reason.


This spring’s precipitation came and went.
With gloved hands – or even without, that was how
I trusted you – I set you in the garden. No need for you
to worry; leave the perfect measure of sun and shade to me.
When the pecans came into leaf I moved you,
relieved my back was feeling better. When the time came
you gave me flowers, the beauty of which lay
beyond the scope of this discourse.
I thought it enough that I knew they were beautiful.


We find ourselves now near the end of July. The sun
is relentless, a serial killer. Twice each day
I tend to your companions. Please,
they croak from their furled throats.
Even the salvia shrivel. Even your succulent cousins.
Slave to the hose, risking misdemeanor,
my skin tuition for the dermatologist’s kid, I tire,
seeing no way out I blame you.


Incapable of empathy, you sit, superior in your painted pots.
Small spiders woo you, devouring threats
to your unbroken skin. Even your wrinkles have charm.
Done with flowering, you drop seeds at will.
Already I see tiny likenesses of you taking root
at your feet, thinking you tall and wonderful.
I keep tweezers in my pocket, anticipating hurt.
In this at least you will not disappoint me.


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