The Children Are Cactuses

“Darling-”
I tap your shoulder
You start, almost spilling your tea into the sunrise.
“Darling,
The children, they’re-”
The corners of your mouth sag in grim anticipation.
“Darling, the children are cactuses.”

And you must be seeing every corner of the world reflected in that mug,
Because your brow knits
Like it does when I ask you what you believe in.

You set down your tea,
And now it’s my turn to sigh resignedly,
Because I know you.
“Dearest,”
You start,
And my eyes meet yours.
“Are you only just noticing?”

And I intake a breath,
Because I’m about to say something,
Something decidedly profound.

I’m about to say,
“Darling,
Of course not.
Of course I noticed the way their stares hardened in the cold,
Of course I saw their tears dribble onto their cheeks like war paint
For a battle they could never win.
Of course I saw them slowly stop moving,
Like they’re afraid of being seen.
Of course I saw them shrink into the negative space between now and then,
Accepting undignified defeat
At the greedy hands of the universe.

“Darling,
Of course I fucking noticed.”

But that isn’t what I say at all.
Instead,
The breath I drew in
Shudders out of me,
And I crumple like a wet paper bag.

You fold me into your chest,
And you don’t mind that your tea is getting as cold as the world is,
And you don’t mind that my tears are turning your jumper into a Pollock.
And you don’t mind that I can scarcely manage a whisper when I say,
“I want to water them. It seems like the right thing to do.

“But,
Too much water can kill a cactus, you know.”

You squeeze my shoulders tighter then,
And bury your wet eyes in my hair.

And muffled, you murmur,
“If only the world hadn’t cried on them quite so much.”

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