Monday, April 9, 2018

The Avocado by Terrance Hayes

The Avocado
“In 1971, drunk on the sweet, sweet juice of revolution, 
a crew of us marched into the president’s office with a list 
of demands,” the black man tells us at the February luncheon, 
and I’m pretending I haven’t heard this one before as I eye 
black tortillas on a red plate beside a big green bowl 
of guacamole made from the whipped, battered remains 
of several harmless former avocados. If abolitionists had a flag 
it would no doubt feature the avocado, also known as the alligator 
pear, for obvious reasons. “Number one: reparations! 
Enough gold to fill each of our women’s wombs, gold 
to nurse our warriors waiting to enter this world with bright fists, 
that’s what we told them,” the man says, and I’m thinking 
of the money-colored flesh of the avocado, high in monosaturates; 
its oil content is second only to olives. I am looking 
at Yoyo’s caterpillar locks dangle over her ear. I dare you 
to find a lovelier black woman from Cincinnati, where the North 
touches the South. “Three: we wanted more boulevards 
named for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An airport 
named for Sojourner Truth.” The roots of the avocado tree
can raise pavement, so it’s not too crazy to imagine the fruit 
as a symbol of revolt on the abolitionist flag. We are all one kind 
of abolitionist or another, no doubt. And we are like the avocado too 
with its inedible ruby-colored seed that can actually sprout from inside 
when the fruit is overmature, causing internal molds and breakdown. 
“Demand number twenty-one: a Harriet Tubman statue on the mall!” 
Brother man is weeping now and walking wet tissue to the trash can 
and saying, “Harriet Tubman was a walking shadow,” or, “Harriet Tubman 
walked in shadows,” or, “To many, Harriet Tubman was a shadow
to walk in,” and the meaning is pureed flesh with lime juice, 
minced garlic, and chili powder; it is salt, and the pepper 
Harriet Tubman tossed over her shoulder to trouble the bloodhounds. 
Many isolated avocado trees fail to fruit from lack of pollination. 
“Goddamn, ain’t you hungry?” I whisper to Yoyo, and she puts a finger 
to my lips to distract me. Say, baby, wasn’t that you waking me up 
last night to say you’d had a dream where I was a big luscious mansize 
avocado? Someone’s belly is growling. “We weren’t going 
to be colored, we weren’t going to be Negro,” the man says, 
and I’m thinking every time I hear this story it’s the one telling the story 
that’s the hero. “Hush now,” Harriet Tubman probably said 
near dawn, pointing a finger black enough to be her pistol barrel 
toward the future or pointing a pistol barrel black enough 
to be her finger at the mouth of some starved, stammering slave 
and then lifting her head to listen for something no one but her could hear. 


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