The mesquite is not a tree although it can be climbed. There was one on the playground, and the pretty girls claimed it for their own. They laughed among its leaves of lace while we less-favored sweated in the sun. No, it's really a bush. Prairie fire and summer drought, left unfought, would burn the young shrubs out. Our parents ran the sprinklers in the drought for house pride and our amusement. We could not play barefoot in the streams; the greened grass hid last autumn's thorns. It flourishes, however, and is never felled— the cows won't eat it, and the wood won't build. We cultivate it. My first boyfriend trod on a thorn while walking in the park where we so often never left the car. Like a scab on the earth it festers, and we disfigure our homes with its rough bark and twisted limbs. Its roots are in me, as much a part of home as the wide sky and the summer heat and my family gathered in the house I grew up in. My world is riddled with its thorns. Pity us, for we rend ourselves with misplaced affections. Thin spindle-fingers writhe, groping heavenwards with the weight of inch-long thorns. Mercy, they tell me, mercy on us, for though we are wicked we know that Jesus lived and died for Texas.
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