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Ali Allen

Cholla • Ali Allen

Cylindropuntia bigelovii

I stare up at the desert anemone with porcupine skin

she is tall enough to redirect my eyes to the sky.

I poke a thorn and pain tickles my finger.

I once read that the thorns aren’t thorns at all but modified leaves. Leaves that evolved over time—produced out of necessity.

When did they start to change? Was it the first time a

javelina took a bite out of her rubbery skin?

Or was it when she didn’t have any more pieces of her she could lose?

I take a step backward, respecting her space,

and absorb her surroundings. She stands alone

except for the sagebrush and the fallen skeleton of a saguaro. It is lonely to survive in the desert.

I once read that the modified leaves shoot from

her body when she senses movement.

I wonder how badly she was hurt before she learned to attack at the first sign of danger.

I wish it didn’t take pain to make her strong.

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