Poetry Monday: “Cactus Toe” by Natalie F.

"Cactus Toe" by Natalie F.

Once when I was about ten years old, I was playing at my friends’ house down the street from mine. At some point, one of the girls pointed to something out the window, and in my enthusiasm, I jumped on the couch and leaned toward the glass…and sunk my chin fully into a cactus. And not one of those big kind with easy-to-see spikes. No, this was one of those round and furry cacti, the kind with eight billion pricklies per square inch.

The enemy
…the stuff that nightmares are made of…

Of course I expected an eruption of giggles once the stunned silence wore off, but I guess my friends were feeling charitable that day and made do with a stifled snicker or two before calling their mother to the rescue. Oh, the humiliation and torture of the next hour as she tweezed my painful goatee into oblivion!

I’ve looked askance at cactus ever since and refuse to have them in my garden. Those things are dangerous!

Fast forward thirty-something years (ouch). I’m not sure I ever mentioned this, but I’m participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 in 2012 picture book writing challenge, through which I have met an astounding number of fabulous writer types. Early on, I glommed onto fellow 12x-er Natalie, with whom I share a similar sense of humor and love of children’s poetry, and who has since become my critique partner and sanity keeper and schemer of Big Plans — all in the space of three weeks!

Naturally, when I found out Natalie lived in Texas, I asked with a mix of fear and possibility, “Are you surrounded by cactus, perchance?” And with her affirmative reply began my Big Plan to add new voices to No Water River. And to make her sit in a cactus patch. And to subject her to a Snickerview™ in which she answers pressing questions about prickly plants.

Please join me in welcoming Natalie as she reads her poem “Cactus Toe.” I hope she is only the first in a long line of guest poets from around the world.

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Cactus Toe


You prickle, prod, and prong.
You’re nature’s pokey pin cushion,
Nine million needles strong.


You’re always sprouting spears.
You hardly ever need a drink —
It hasn’t rained in years!


You stand in scorching sun.
You soak and stretch your spiny arms,
Which couldn’t be much fun!


I think that you should know,
I’d rather eat a worm
Than have a cactus in my toe!

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Do not sit on these


[heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Natalie[/heading]

What’s Up with Natalie

Natalie, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool? 

NatalieFI’m just Little Ol’ Me. I live in Smalltownsville, Texas, and I have been a rhyming fool since birth. My mom says that as a young child, I spoke only in rhyming couplets, and it took years of intensive speech therapy to get me out of the habit.

Where did you get the idea for “Cactus Toe,” and how long did it take to write it?

A couple of years ago, we uprooted our lives in the city and moved to five cactus-filled acres in the country. Every time my son got cactus needles in his feet, he would scream, “Mommy, I have a cactus in my toe!”

I always knew the last four words of the poem would be “cactus in my toe.” I wrote most of the poem in my head one day while folding laundry.

You’re so glamorous! I wouldn’t think it possible to get an entire cactus stuck in your toe. Is your family particularly clumsy?

Yes, in fact, we are! I once pulled an entire oak tree out of my youngest son’s ear.

You loved making the poetry video, didn’t you? What did you love most about the experience?

I love that it only took me 806 takes to look ten years older, ten pounds heavier, and seem nothing like myself. In real life, I am honestly ten years younger, ten pounds lighter, and have an actual personality.

Well, I think you should be very pleased with your first foray into video! I always have a few video bloopers. Do you have one? 

Oh gosh, yes! My husband helped me set up the camera, and right before he walked off and left me to film, he said, “You know, you really shouldn’t film sitting in that cactus patch. Snakes love to hide in them.”

“Uhhh….thanks, honey.”

So as soon as I sat down for the first take, I swear I felt a snake bite me on the behind, so I jumped up screaming! But then I realized I had been bitten by a stick, not a snake.

And yes…it’s all on film.

Blooper-reel goodness! What do you do when you’re not tiptoeing barefoot through the cactus patch?

I love to run with shoes on! I enjoy health and fitness, running in half-marathons, and challenging myself both mentally and physically. I love hanging out with my three boys, and I am excited to be writing regularly again with the 12×12 challenge.

When I am not doing those things, I am working on a website that I started about five years ago. I create and sell printable teaching materials for Special Education teachers.

Can we come visit you and look at your other stuff? (Online, of course, not at your house. Unless you have cake. Then we’ll come to your house. Unless it’s cactus cake. Then we’ll just see you online.)

Sure! Stop on by my blog at www.wadingthroughwords.wordpress.com or my site at www.filefolderheaven.com. There’s always iced tea in the refrigerator!

We’d need a really long straw. Thanks for stopping by, Natalie, and for adding “Cactus Toe” — and your lovely face and voice — to No Water River’s growing video poetry library! I’m so pleased you chose to accept this mission.

Of course! And you know…a cactus really could grow in a no-water river.

Natalie will be writing about her prickly road to video poetry tomorrow on her blog, so be sure to go visit. She’s funny! 

Do you write children’s poetry? Would you like to see your name in lights? Send me a message and we’ll talk!


Video Location: Cactus Patch Central, Texas hill country.

See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Cactus Toe” copyright © 2012 Natalie F.

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  1. Wonderful, very fun interview! So nice to learn more about Natalie! And Natalie, as someone who was invited to take a stab at this (no pun intended) and failed miserably, I applaud your awesome reading and I don’t think you look away over ten years less than whatever age you are 🙂

    1. Aw, thank you, Susanna! I’m positive Renee would be happy to have you whenever you are ready to do it! 🙂 And I am also positive that you would do a fantastic job! 🙂

  2. What a delightful post. I loved the video and cactus related stories that you both shared.
    Natalie, the poem was so cute! Loved it. And I think you looked great and upstaged the cactus by a million percent.
    Renee, thanks for conducting a super fun interview. I, too, fell in cactus as a child…but it was in my hand. I would’ve really freaked if the cactus had been in my chin.

  3. I wish I had had your cactus poem a few years ago, Natalie, when I traveled through New Mexico, Arizona & into Mexico with students, carefully avoiding cacti all the way! We had a few mishaps, but the poem might have brought some comic relief. I enjoyed the ‘why’ of your poem about your son, too. Thank you for a great post, Renee.

    1. Eric–I write a lot in my head, mostly while folding laundry and running. A spiral notebook is never far away though. Once I jot things down and get something coherent going, I transfer it to the computer. I’m still very “old school” in ways, paper and pencils are still big part of my writing routine.

      Thanks for watching! 🙂

  4. What a super fun video, poem and interview. I love all this humor! I am so impressed that you got Nathalie to do her 806 take video, I wouldn’t know where to start, but having the visual is wonderful!

    I love your guest poet idea, Renee! You’re a genius!

  5. That was adorable! My brother and sister dared each other to lick cactus plants when we were younger at my aunt’s house, it was hilarious. They did not do it again.

    What a fun idea Renee. I’ll get my techy skills up a notch if I’m goign to do this too. Thanks!

    1. GAH! You have just given me nightmares, Catherine. Licking a cactus??? And it was hysterical??? NOOOOOO!!!!! {shudder} You don’t need any techie skills at all, Catherine! If you’re interested, just send me a message and we’ll work it out. 🙂

  6. Renee, great post as usual. I loved that you had Natalie on as a guest reader. I really enjoyed your poem Natalie. At first I thought Renee wrote it, since it was very close to her style. The blooper story was pretty funny, thanks for sharing ladies

  7. What a super-high compliment, Jennifer as I think Renee is an amazing writer. 🙂 I wanted “Cactus Toe,” to fit the over all feel of No Water River, but I actually write in a whole variety of styles. In fact, today’s poem almost wasn’t “Cactus Toe,” but a completely different poem about a farmer. I hope to share that one, someday too. 🙂

    Thanks for watching Jennifer! 🙂

  8. Great video and interview! I had to read this poem to my son, Arthur, because he had a run in with a jumping cholla in Arizona. Ouch! He gave the poem a “yes!”.

      1. It’s a cactus that has long, barbed needles and even gently touching the plant causes it to release a pod which then “jumps” onto whatever touched it. It also has fine hairs in addition to the needles that itch like crazy. Poor Arthur barely touched it and ended up with a few nasty wounds on his hand. You should be frightened, it was a freaky aggressive plant!!

  9. THAT WAS GREAT! My Dad had a funny story when he got a cactus stuck between the pointer fingers of both of his hands! NEVER touch a cactus 🙂 I am going to show this poem to him! It’s cool you had a guest reader!

  10. Natlie, I love this poem. Sorry it took so long to stop by and see your reading and read it. We lived in Del Rio, Texas for a couple years. My son was born there, but won’t have the thrill of wondering if he should touch or not touch the cactus. Border Patrol agents suggested Duct Tape to remove the needles. It works!

    1. Duct tape totally works Stacy! It’s exactly what we use…much more effective than trying to pluck needles with tweezers one by one. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  11. That was a fun poem and I thoughly enjoyed seeing Natalie reading it to us. You looked fantastic and did a great job Natalie. Brave sitting with all those catus around you though. Thanks for a great post Renee.

  12. Thank you for watching Diane! I must say that when it was all said and done, I did have a few needles in my hands–a couple in my thumb, and one more in another finger. But no cactus in the toe to speak of–thank goodness! 🙂

  13. Terrific guest post Renee!

    Natalie – I heartily applaud your video debut of Cactus Toe. How wonderful! I enjoyed your interview tremendously and clicked right over to the File Folder Heaven link. Before my son got an iTouch, I would never have had a spare minute to do anything around the house without a library of file folder games. I’ve got a cabinet shelf dedicated to them and love to pass them on to teachers and classrooms when he has grown tired of them. Bravo! Glad to have a new link to more resources. Thank you!

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