Dirty pink petals capped its massive umbels,
framed by glossy lobed leaves,
Coarse white bristles stiffened along its trunk;
blood-red splotches dotted its stems like blemishes.
We played in the shade of its canopy,
inhaled the resinous stink of aniseed,
pretending to be punkah wallahs, fanning
a princess. We wielded the hollow stalks
like light sabers; imagined peashooters, telescopes.
By lunchtime we were itching like stray cats,
our skin flushed red as sunburn. We woke next day
to blisters, yellowish, watery, as if we’d been scalded.
They lasted all summer, they stung in the light.
It turned out we were lucky to still have our sight.