Napo 13 and a workshop
Today was great. I'm visiting my home in Edinburg, and I had the opportunity to attend a poetry workshop at Luna Coffee House with some old MFA buddies. My goodness, how I miss this poetry community! Julieta was giving a workshop on revision, and it was nice to push me out of my comfort zone. These folks were an inspiration! I saw old friends Rodney, John, and Diana, and met a couple new writers as well.
Julieta gave us a prompt to write in response to an M.S Merwin quote that went something like this: "On the last day of the world, I would plant a tree." I wrote some mumbo jumbo in the workshop itself, but after the workshop, while driving home, B and I saw a man selling avocado trees on the side of the road, a common sight. "I'd love an avocado tree!" I told him. "But you would never get to eat the fruit," he reminded me. "Those things take decades to grow."
And then I felt a little sad. He's right, of course. Who knows if we'll have our little plot of land where I'd like to plant such a tree decades from now. Who knows if the city, by then, will have swallowed everything. Who knows if I'll even be alive. If the news is correct, the world will probably be over by the time those saplings bear fruit. So why even bother? But it's our bothering, our faith, our optimism, that changes the world, that keeps it turning, that keeps us going. So, after the workshop, thinking of the quote and my experience with the seedlings, I decided to write this mess. I'd like to come back to this and work at it some more, put into effect some of Julieta's fine advice on revision. Here's what I got so far:
To Those Who Want to Plant an Avocado Tree
It takes a certain leap of faith to plant
An avocado tree in your back yard.
I think of this today while driving past
An avocado seller on the roadside,
Selling saplings in five-gallon buckets.
I tell my husband, stop the car. I want
An avocado tree so badly now
Because our time on earth is short.
An avocado sapling takes a decade
To mature. For all we know, the land
We’ll plant this sapling in will be
Paved into a parking lot, no longer
fertile soil and open monte. And probably,
Our rancho will be gone. And probably,
We’ll be long gone, too. I know this,
Yes, I understand the leap of senseless faith—
How futile opening the earth would be
To slip this sapling there and wait
and nurture, toil and worry over
something that will never give you fruit,
But if it does, if only,
when I’m ancient, if against the odds
this avocado sapling can survive
the coming apocalypse of ocean,
nuclear war, or too much sun,
the choking of the smoke stacks
and the smog, if, yes, this avocado tree
grows ten feet tall, these stems
becoming wood in our little plot of land,
and I’ll stumble outside into the sun,
look up and see the fruit
heavy on branches that I coaxed to life
with dirty hands and aching bones,
then yes, oh God yes, if I can taste
that cool green flesh upon my tongue,
then all of this, this life, this everything
was worth it. If I can cup that fruit
in my aching palm, for just a moment,
pull it from the branch and hold it in my hand.
I know it’s almost impossible,
Unlikely. I know our world is coming to an end,
But please, let’s buy this avocado sapling
From this seller on the roadside.
Please, close your eyes, imagine this a tree,
Imagine us together planting it,
Imagine this world, beautiful,
A forest of avocado trees—
The heavy fruit we’ll eat together
After the apocalypse has come and gone.
How can I convince him to believe in this?
How can I convince him to believe in goodness?
How can I convince him to believe in us?