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Cactus Sickness by Ted Hughes

Cactus-Sickness
By Ted Hughes

I hope you never contract
The lunar galloping cact-
us, which is when dimples
Suddenly turn into pimples,
And these pimples bud—
Except for the odd dud—
Each one into a head with hair
And a face just like the one you wear.
These heads grow pea-size to begin
From your brows, your nose, your cheeks and your chin.
But soon enough they’re melon-size,
All with mouths and shining eyes.
Within five days your poor neck spreads
A bunch of ten or fifteen heads
All hungry, arguing or singing
(Somewhere under your own head’s ringing).
And so for one whole tedious week
You must admit you are a freak.

And then, perhaps when you gently cough
For silence, one of the heads drops off.
Their uproar instantly comes to a stop.
Then in silence, plop by plop,
With eyes and mouth most firmly closed,
Your rival heads, in turn deposed,
Land like pumpkins round your feet.
You walk on feeling light and neat.

In the next mirror you are assured
That now you stand completely cured.

from Moon-Whales and Other Poems ( Viking, 1976. Illustrated by Leonard Baskin).


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