Leathered fingers pluck you while you are still tender as a peach. Before your long stem reaches up and grabs the warm summer rays, the ones that heat your milky insides and develop your glaucous tinge. To the neighbors, you are noxious, invisible clouds of puffy green mist floating in their faces. They are afraid you will snuff out all the mild mannered blooms that grow around you. One stray drop of the sprinkler’s jet and you have sustenance for a week.
Mrs. Johnson thinks she knows my secret. “Poor thing,” she tells her hens. “She just lets that thistle grow. Why on earth won’t she go pluck it?”
As you grow, your long peach-like hairs turn to needled layers of protection. Even the underside of your leaves protect your stance in the ground. Within a matter of twenty-one moons, you are the envy of all eukaryotes. Strong and defensive. Within another three weeks, their envy will bloom into hatred as your purple blossom plumes. Not only are you fortified but you are dignified, as well. Rising above your humble beginnings if left to flourish.
I, too, fortified myself. Now, my tears only fall from the slice of the milky onion shell. Those who know of the truth from that night will not truly accept my upbeat personality and grateful outlook on life. To them, I am damaged goods and not worth anyone’s tender upkeep. The newcomers are sweet and kind until someone whispers, “Poor thing, I can’t imagine letting another man touch me after a night like that.” And then even their rosy affection turns to pity.
Perhaps I am a fool for not seeking assistance in beheading you. For once the pollen has been collected by the keepers of wax and honey, your down will drift as it pleases. Like millions of sperm fighting for the right to implant. You are not weak or shallow but instead determined to last until the dew turns solid. Frozen, like my body when it fought for control after the tainted drink he offered.
One time, I pulled on the stem of your ancestor and quickly learned a lesson. My palm still tingles when I think of your touch and I cringe when I think of his. I see your tall shape towering over the daisies while necked with the larkspur. I beg of you not to overwhelm the others and instead live in harmony. The critics have already voiced their concerns. Too lazy or overwhelmed to grasp the stems themselves. I, however, assure them that it is not my one thistle that threatens their gardens, but the masses growing on the edge of the abandoned lot next door.
Are thistles not like tragic events? Their beginnings unknown and yet they quickly turn vicious before finally blooming into a bitter, tinged memory. Memories that cannot be suppressed or plucked no matter how strong we grasp them. The memories that cause us to flinch when a shadow moves behind us.