Poem, Poetry

Charley Barnes – 2 poems

Euphorbia | Milk and chocolate

You mishear me, mistake the word
for “euphoria”
and assume I’m offering
something like elation. But I serve
Wolf’s milk instead, chocolate drops
that blister the skin and blind the eyes
because what better way is there
to love someone
than to make them hurt?

“Euphorbia,” you say, through lips
split from sunlight sensitivity
and I shush you, persist
in pressing sap into the dip
of your tongue.
This is different to how you imagined.
“But aren’t you excited, love,”
I ask you, “don’t you feel something now?”

Euphorbia, also known as Wolf’s Milk, is traditionally associated with persistence and purification. The plant blooms with a chocolate flower at its centre. The sap and latex of the plant are extremely poisonous and can cause permanent damage to the eyes and skin.

Cactaceae | And then bury it

I pull out the spines,
feel my fingertip skin break
under the point of them.
They are hard-edged, appropriate,
then, for the root – for the word.

I carve as clearly as the cacti point allows:


This stem, I give back to the earth –
bury it as best as I can where I found it,
to disguise the magic and seal
the intention – make a treehouse
to keep the word safe.

But I take a vial of soil with me.
I will never come back. Only carry
a reminder – only remember the want.

Cactaceae – or cacti – have been used in magic practices. One ritual outlines using a cacti spine to carve a word or symbol into a root, or into wax. The root or wax should then be buried to seal the intent.

Charley Barnes is a lecturer in Creative and Professional Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. She has published several poetry pamphlets, and most recently her debut collection, Lore, published with Black Pear Press (February 2021). She also writes crime fiction as Charlotte Barnes, with Bloodhound Books.

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