Hayden's Ferry Review

Dear Girl in the Cactus

by: Molly Beckwith


Your parents meant to take a photograph. You stole
your brother’s light and so he shoved you, shoulder-first.

Girl in the cactus, pain will taste like the whiskey
you’ll shoot one summer in a stretch of empty field.
You are stronger than its burn
or the cigarette smoke clung to your collar. For now,

the green suits you, little dragon spines
tangling in your blood as you perch on the tub.
When you pull them, the cactus claws,
from your thigh, lay them on the counter
in order of size, and then trash them. Later
wish you hadn’t. Tisk your tongue
against your teeth as air fills in your holes.

In your mother’s circle you are the one
with bad breath, dirty fingernails, red stripes on your shoulders
from climbing too many trees. Keep digging your lair,
little Komodo, and find what it is you’ve been missing.
Eat flowers and peppers until you turn lovely, hot.
Know your parents never took the picture.
Dear fire-eater, beat your arms until they grow heavy,
and do not stop. Dear little dragon, swallow light so it shines

in your chest. Dear girl in the cactus, you’d do it again.