Do not give me roses: delicate tissue-thin skin withering where strewn down wedding aisles. Petal promises arranged in crystal vases. The ferocious heat of me with you too easily swallows scarlett blooms. Give me instead a cactus. A fearless behemoth, a prickled bastion for our battered hearts. A new arm sprouting when life strays from plan: when the pock-marked brother pushes poison into his veins when the rose-cheeked toddler grows flowering tumors faster than shoe sizes and the body, prone to betrayal, leaves longed-for babies smeared red in a porcelain bowl. In the Baja peninsula, cacti are the forest. Spine-branched barrels slumber in the sand. Open palms reach skyward, holding the heat-heavy air. Offering a finger to the universe, each hand refuses surrender. For centuries, the Cardón has made her home secure on the sheer rock. Holding tight, she laughs in the face of the burning sun. — CAMILLE LEBEL
Camille Lebel, educator and mother to seven, lives on a small hobby farm outside of Memphis, Tennessee. She’s published in Rogue Agent Journal, Literary Mama, Sledgehammer Lit, Sparks of Calliope, Black Fox Literary Magazine and more. She enjoys writing, traveling, and horse-whispering. She largely writes in the school car-line as a way to process special needs parenting, child loss, religious trauma, and more.