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POETRY I BY CARA BERTRON I SHOULD HAVE LIVED FIRST IN THE DESERT My mother bore me under the dark eaves of a wooden house surrounded by vague oaks and bushy cedars, in the light of a paper lamp from Japan that remembers yet the bonsai pride. With six years grasped in hand, I stumbled and fell beside the well-trod path from house to road, found a shriek of indignance like a newborn, found my own self \(and my best giraffe of grandfather cactus. Thus, the beginning. In later reading, my eye was drawn to, nay, learned to love, words, words of a succinct many, upstart heads with i-cabooses: rhinoceri, hippopotami, radii, all circled within ellipsoids of cacti strong and sturdy and blessed with grace of surety and growth. In the Texas Hill Country we watch fields of prickly-pear cacti spread without sowing, align our good fortune in jars of jam from their abundant fruit, the tuna, neither animal nor fish but a beast in its own land. We stop to harvest on the way home, remembering the sticky-sweet fruit and long minutes spent with tweezers picking out the tiny tuna-pricks from fingers and clothes. What calls us, truly? \(Tis not the jam, I wager, but the thrill of pursuit, the inevitable woundso! to see skin speared by minute needles, to pluck spikes out of pink flesh in the Great Search of the hour THE SPACE OF FAILURE You and I alone, kid, in a room with four walls, this rock of a floor, and one window to the sky. Begin fresh, now, no dusty Websters allowed. We’ll make our own words and world. There’s no way to banish an end, maybe, but take your hand off the doobronk and let’s talk. In here we can’t see the vanishing point \(where love disappears so sit in that criha, put your feet up on the tolso, because this, at least, is ours. Would you like a pip of eta? Is the henry-thing apt? Do you think the rain will have stopped by the time we leave? Cara Bertron and the delicious possibility of missing one or two or three of the little buggers, discovered by chance pressure, ensuing pain: to bend sweetly, begin the hunt again. CARA BERTRON was raised on the banks of Fisher Creek, near Leander, Texas. She won the 2003 Urmy-Hardy Poetry Prize at Stanford University and is currently working on a lengthy series she calls “my Noah poems.” She likes other people’s cats. Naomi Shihab Nye FEBRUARY 4, 2005 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21