Some People are Just Prickly

some people are just prickly

some people are just prickly

I thought this was an interesting prompt that my MFA class did last semester. (prose poetry, Eve Jones)
See what you can come up with. My response is below.

Write a piece about a specific kind of plant. Find one with an interesting defensive system, or that grows somewhere special. Research it. Then take three or so of those details that can be described in a simile for a human.

Kaye’s response:

The Prickly Pear
Prickly pears are often flat, rounded and armed with two kinds of spines. One kind of spine is large, smooth and fixed and the other is small, tiny prickles that penetrate the skin and detach from the cactus. These prickly pears can grow into dense and tangled plants. Although prickly pears are native to the Americas they have been introduced to countries all over the world including the Mediterranean areas, Israel and Australia. They are cold tolerant and love arid areas such as deserts but they do grow in Florida. There are numerous species of prickly pears, six of which are found in the Galapagos Islands.
In Australia, they became such a nuisance (in Queensland) that an insect was introduced to kill the species. This is now cited as an example of biological pest control. In the meantime, English settlers in New South Wales experimented with the prickly pear to make a heady brew to help keep the insidious cactus controlled. Tim Low states on page 58 of Bush Medicine, that in 1925, an Australian doctor claimed a “decoction of prickly pear (Opuntia stricta) leaf pads ‘definitely cured about twenty diabetics…The mixture is unpleasant and slimy to take…There is not the slightest doubt about its value.’”
In Israel, the original Jewish settlers of the 1930’s and ‘40’s were labeled “sabras” which was the name given to the prickly pears that grow wild in Israel. It is a greenish, wine-red or orange-yellow fruit with a soft and sweet center and is used in salads and as a fruit to eat straight off the plate or juiced. The prickles are peeled off with the skin. It is one of my favorite fruits.

some people are just prickly

some people are just prickly

The reason the old generation of Israelis were named after this cactus is because they were rough and tough pioneers on the outside, but sweet and generous on the inside.

Sources cited or researched:
Clarke, Philip. Aboriginal People and Their Plants. Dural, N.S.W.: Rosenberg, 2007. 58,202. Print.
Low, Tim. Bush Medicine: A Pharmacopoeia of Natural Remedies. North Ryde, N.S.W., Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1990. Print.
“Opuntia.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 May 2015.

Three characteristics that can also apply to humans. Of course, I couldn’t stop myself at three:

Tough skin
Sweet on the inside
American native
World traveler
Cold tolerant
Holds onto water, bloated
Round and plump
Multiple ancestors
Many children
No boundaries

A prose poem simile for humans and prickly pears by kaye

My mother’s barbs penetrate my skin with a string of prickly epithets. Like a solar flare she invades the atmosphere of my world, breeding her contemptuous network of seeds and prickles until they puncture my space. Like a woman scorned, she shrinks when I mock her harsh Germanic roots, when I bite into her with my toothy words, and soon she opens up with effusive gestures like hidden honey from a beehive, pouring out her sweet pulp in apology and “don’t be silly” phrases. But not until I dismantle her boundaries of bloated morality, does she surrender her soft side, the angry mother finally yielding to her daughter.
As I walk away, I wonder which of us is really the prickly pear?

Kaye LindenSome People are Just Prickly

4 Comments on “Some People are Just Prickly”

  1. Patricia

    I enjoyed reading this piece. It is interesting to think of plants and how they can be used as metaphors for our human psyches! Hmmmm…I would like to be thought of as a gardenia!

    1. Kaye Linden

      Thank you for your comment. I invite you to write a tiny piece about a woman (or a man) who is similar to a gardenia.

      Let’s see what good ole Wikipedia says. I have taken the liberty to insert a few human comparisons.

      “Gardenia plants are prized for the strong sweet scent of their flowers, which can be very large in size in some species. (a large woman with a sweet scent?)

      Gardenia jasminoides (syn. G. grandiflora, G. Florida) is cultivated as a house plant. (yes. The gardenia is a housewife.) This species can be difficult (a difficult woman) to grow because it originated in warm humid tropical areas. It demands high humidity to thrive, and bright (not direct) light. (She needs to get out more) It flourishes in acidic soils with good drainage and thrives on [68-74 F temperatures (20-23 C)][2] during the day and 60 F (15-16 C) in the evening. (A woman who loves Florida) Potting soils developed especially for gardenias are available. G. jasminoides grows no larger than 18 inches in height and width when grown indoors. In climates where it can be grown outdoors, it can attain a height of 6 feet. If water touches the flowers, they will turn brown.[4] (A very sensitive lady)

      In China and Japan, Gardenia jasminoides is called zhīzi (栀子) and kuchinashi (梔), respectively. Its blossom is used as a yellow dye, used on fabric and food (including the Korean mung bean jelly called hwangpomuk). Its fruits are also used in traditional Chinese medicine for their clearing, calming, and cooling properties.[5] (She is a healer)

      In France, gardenias are the flower traditionally worn by men as boutonnière when in evening dress. In The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton suggests it was customary for upper-class men from New York City to wear a gardenia on their buttonhole during the Gilded Age.[6]

      Sigmund Freud remarked to the poet H.D. that gardenias were his favorite flower. (A sensual Freudian slip)

      It is the national flower of Pakistan.

      Several species occur on Hawaii, where gardenias are known as naʻu or nānū.

      Crocetin is a chemical compound usually obtained from Crocus sativus, which can also be obtained from the fruit of Gardenia jasminoides.”

  2. Joan

    “. . . Rough and tough pioneers on the outside, sweet and generous on the inside. ”

    Not a bad association if you ask prickly me!!

    Great piece Kaye!

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