Virginia garden

Via #January writing prompts

Coexisting in the clay soil of our garden
under the pine are the azalea,
fuchsia yet somehow demure,
and the sprawling nopal cactus
going where the light is,
echoing the shrub’s color
later in its fruit. Edible
in every part yet protected
by its spines, the cactus endures
the days of too much rain
pooling under the pine needles,
the rain its neighbor needs
to thrive. The azalea blooms,
its leaves, nectar and petals
all poisonous, “mad honey”
made from its nectar
causing confusion and
breaking the heart.
They coexist, the poisoner
and the nourisher
in the pine scented soil,
the nopal bristling to protect
its juicy pads and sweet fruit
and the lovely graceful azalea
quietly plotting our doom.


The azalea bush is a beautiful native plant of the east coast that grows well near pine trees. The whole plant is poisonous. The cactus can grow anywhere, but too much rain is bad for it. Every part of a healthy cactus can be eaten, except the needles that protect it. This poem is a response to the expression “bloom where you’re planted,” which means to make the most of your circumstances. I imagine myself as the cactus struggling to survive in the wrong garden. Now I’m in the desert where I belong.


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