Desert Roses, 1994 by Ann Walters

Roses flourish in my garden, even in this desert, while the lump under my arm swells like a bud high on Spring. Lizards practice their push-ups on the concrete patio.

By summer I rise at 3:30 every morning and race the sun to see which one of us will start her work first. She always seems to rise more quickly on the Reservation. The lump has fingered its way into my breast and it itches when the shaman offers his blessing for our survey crew.

The roses are never angry that I leave the watering until evening. They stretch their petals like a woman's lips spread in anticipation, the fallen ones a mound of velvet in my hand.

The night before my surgery it is one hundred degrees at midnight. By the moon's light I can smell the sweet release of roses turning in their beds. A thorn draws blood like wished-for rain. At the base of a rose, a cicada crawls out from under its old skin, singing a new song.


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