How to Grow Avocado

How to Grow Avocado

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do
– Willa Cather, “O Pioneers”

Choose your sapling carefully.

If planting bare rooted,
Ensure the roots can spread
In an elegant fan, else
Dig a pit just deep enough,
But not too deep,
To take the root ball,
Gently guide
The root tips downward to ensure
A good, firm anchor.

They say it takes
Seven summers
For this tender tree
To mature. That’s not
Too long to wait.
Rich, oily fleshed and puckered
Dark skinned fruit
Worth waiting for

Weigh down its broad leaved
Reaching branches,
So vigorous I have to prune it
To perhaps three
Or four times my own height,
Or reduce it by the
Careful grafting of its leg
Onto another foot.

And at its centre
The polished nut,
Seems almost systole, pumping
Future sap in woody veins to
Wrinkled skin on sunburnt lips, or
Palms of a gardener’s hands.

I lean on one leg on my spade
And wonder “Should I
Dig this pit through
The midpoint of the Earth
And out the other side?”

But here, the air
Is much too warm,
The soil too rich,
To lose, by just one
Careless footfall
Slipping gently
To cold winter,
Rotting windfalls.

© Martin Porter 2006

“How to Grow Avocado” is a poem that benefitted from comments made by critical friends.

The origins of the poem come from a workshop several years before the poem was conceived (see entry in this blog: Lunch in Marco’s Kitchen) where recipe poetry was discussed. The recipe has been replaced by a set of instructions on avocado cultivation. The movement from these basic instructions to the more personal wistfulness evolved naturally as the poem was written.

The poem in its original draft was less disciplined. It had the same movement as this version, but the conclusing two stanzas were considerably longer, and the first few stanzas had longer lines. By editing the final two stanzas, the poem became more compact and elegant, but the longer lines of the start of the poem became top heavy and inelegant. Splitting the lines and editing out unnecessary adjectives gave the poem greater internal consistency. Critical friends then gave their opinions on the poem and the final stanza, in particular, was further edited making it less explicit and more meditative.

The poem was published in the 52/250 A Year of Flash blog in 2011.

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