rigid white spines

by Elouise


rigid white spines

protect thick upright stem

tiny leaflets shrink

* * *

I don’t have a clue what to call this beauty.
It stands in the Silver Garden at Longwood Gardens.
Living repository of succulents, mosses and unusual trees.
All capable of living with limited water supplies.
The dark area behind it is part of a window frame.

I decided to see whether I could write a haiku
that at least captured what I was seeing in the photo.
Then I searched for cacti images to see what kind it might be.
That’s when I discovered my first effort was off the mark.
I rewrote it accordingly.  I think.

It seems ‘normal’ plant logic doesn’t work here.
The spines, for example, are actually ‘leaves.’
The little green leaflets won’t develop into leaves.
Sometimes they become the source of more spines.
And then there’s that tall upright stem.
Not really a ‘spine,’ though we often call it that.
The function of the true spines (not simply thorns)
is not to protect those cute oval leaflets.
It’s to guard the cactus from predators seeking its treasure–
life-giving, water-like liquid, stored on behalf of the plant.

No, I won’t turn this into a lesson about life or death.
I just want you to know how hard I worked on this haiku for you!

Also, if you’re cactus-savvy,
and can enlighten us about what to call it
or about anything else of interest,
such as statements above that are wrong,
now’s your chance!

This is not a poem.
I decided it looked better this way.

* * *

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 January 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, May 2014
Silver Garden, Longwood Gardens Pennsylvania