Poem for Poetry Thursday

A True Story

Once a friend in Arizona
bought a cactus plant,
heart shaped, with a yellow bud
tilted elegantly to the side

like a woman’s good Sunday hat.
She placed the gray clay pot
on her coffee table,
and after a few days she noticed

that the plant started to move.
Concerned, she called a flower shop
asking the florist,
“How can I get it to stop?”

The florist shrieked “get out of
the house!” He called the police,
the fire department, a pet store—
A man in a beekeeper’s garb

(all the town could afford)
roped off the house and the yard,
placed the plant in the middle of the lawn
and split it wide like a watermelon

to find a nest of scorpions writhing
in the afternoon sun.
Displaced, motherless,
those hothouse babies

hidden under the cactus’ tough sharp spines,
waved their feelers,
bowed their heads,
as if they were guilty of something.

Copyright 2006 January G. O'Neil

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Kay Cooke said…
Wow!! This is an amazing poem - actually one of my poems has a similar ending ... I'm talking about a grub in my poem; it's that bendy thing they do with their bodies that captured me.As if they are praying almost ... I have enjoyed catching up with your blogs again - I've been having a bit of a blogging break.
January said…
Thanks. I'd love to read your poem with the similar ending.

Welcome back to the blogsphere! Can't wait to check out your blog again.
claireylove said…
That is creepy, in many senses of the word!
You have a wonderful conversational, energetic style. So elegant, too.
Oh...the contrast of the "Sunday hat" church-vibe with the scorpions' bowed heads and instinctive guilt was beautifully rendered. Thanks for sharing this one!
Laini Taylor said…
Oh! How visceral and frightening and wonderful -- such a nice surprise, a poem that makes you want to race towards the conclusion, like a thriller, and then slow down and read it again. What fun!
Jennifer S. said…
Ew! I'm glad we don't have scorpions around here. a giant spider crawled out of my shoe yesterday.

Sunday hats always work for me too.

Great poem!
Jim Brock said…
I want to echo c. delia's praise and admiration. I also really like the fairy-tale narrative, or rather the fable you create here. Really smart and memorable.
Susannah Conway said…
oh this is so good - writhing scorpions made me recoil, but then motherless babies made me want to take them home and look after them. brilliant, i love visiting your blog
Deirdre said…
Skin-crawling and beautiful. I read it twice and still know that another reading will show me more. Amazing writing.
Cate said…
I loved this--your use of language just awes me! Thank you!
wendy said…
another example of fatal beauty...you ROCK!
Anonymous said…
You know this is one of my absolute favorites of your work. Someday I want an autographed copy of it.

January said…
Since Blogger was kind of a pain yesterday, I gave up trying to post.

Anyway, thanks for the feedback. And for everyone who thinks the poem is creepy--a special thank you. Never considered the poem as such, but I see what you're saying.

Unknown said…
Wow! gripping!
Dani In NC said…
The first thing I thought of when I read the part about the plant moving was, "Little Shop of Horrors!" I'm such a geek :-). This poem is a little different than your other poems I've read, but it's cool.

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