I saw a prickly pear cactus today

by Aisling Henihan

next to azaleas
            pink ones
                        like the dress you wore

last spring when
            you spent April hiding
                        in the garden

were you hiding from me
            I looked for you

scratched my hands
            on thistles and thorns
                        mistook a bush
for a belle       
            never found you anyway
                        I didn’t know

cactus could grow
            here where
                        air is so humid
I forget to breathe
            flat green pads with big spines
                       pink fruit swollen and spiked

it reminded me of the time
            we went to the desert
                        and walked the creek bed

sat with eyes closed
            for hours I saw
                       a snake there

spooled in shade
            waiting and after
                        as I shed skin

where it bubbled peeled
            in sun I understood
                       exactly what we were

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