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.
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.
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!
Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Natalie
What’s Up with Natalie
Natalie, who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
I’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.”
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.)
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.