To learn about negative space in art class, you started
with a surface dark enough to have its own gravity,
an India ink wash, the damp spots imprinted
on your fingers. You scraped away
until the page revealed squares of white
space. In this, one pattern reveals another.
One face could be any other face. The magnolia
could be a skinned goat head, tongued
by smoke. You could feel the coarseness
of the animal’s hair when stroked in the wrong
directions, before the men came
to lead it away. They did not see you follow
them, busy tending their fires, did not see
your face flicker as they scalded the body hung
upside down until you blushed before
the soft thudding heart lost among the roots
of a banana tree. The truth is that there is no
banana tree but a network of leaves that fold in
on themselves until the plant flowers just
out of reach. You envied those whose
precision with a slingshot could obtain
any fruit, their muscles clearly more taut
then yours, tightened, you suspect,
by evenings that end with fire. The weight
of a banana is one heart and one stone.
When they ask if you know enough
about what you consume, what you offer
to the youngest in your family
say not enough joy, say it emerged out
of the ground one day embracing itself.
Albert Abonado is the Director of Adult Programs at Writers & Books. He is the editor of The Bakery. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in issues of Fourteen Hills, New Ohio Review, Phantom Limb, Pleiades, Sixth Finch, and others. He lives with his wife in Rochester, NY.