Argentine-American storyteller based in Appalachia

A Birthday Poem About Bananas

A Birthday Poem About Bananas
Photo by Mike Dorner / Unsplash

Yesterday was Haley's birthday. Every birthday since the first we shared together as a couple, I've written her something original: a letter or a poem. I've done the same on Valentine’s Days, Mother’s Days, or other special occasions that merit such effort.

The letters and poems, now in the dozens, are not the work of some savant. They are reminders from her often-exhausted and grumpy husband of how special she is to me and how much I love her, even when I struggle to show it.

I believe strongly in writing out of the well of our own feelings and memories for our loved ones. I reject the temptation to fast-track this process by buying some expensive greeting card with words already on the inside. I wrote about this back in May when I was working on Mother's Day letters for the women in my family.

The card doesn't matter. The flowers and rainbows and cutesy animals printed on the front. The words written by some copywriter at Hallmark. These will all be forgotten. Because the card is just a vehicle. What matters are the words written in ink around the printed ones. They are the words meant just for them. That no one else could write except you.

This birthday, I wrote a narrative poem about bananas. I didn't get tripped up trying to write the best poem I could. I didn't try to write like Robert Frost or Emily Dickinson. I can't be those people. I can only be me.

Banana Lover

You can bite into the green banana. I will not stop you from doing it,  eager as you are for the sweet fruit inside—like the baby when she chewed through the eggshell to the soft, white flesh. And we laughed.

Oh, the eagerness of youth. Of love. “I want this thing, and I will have it, no matter
the barricade.”

I did the same. I ate the green banana too. I remember you told me to always buy the green ones because they last longer. And you were right. On the second day, it yellowed. And I watched it grow more yellow the third and fifth day. By the week’s end, it was resplendent. Like ripened corn. (Which, to Alba, is indistinguishable from a banana.)  

But I digress.

The point is the ripening. You can eat the green banana. You can eat it on the second or third day. It will be sweet and good, and it will fill your belly for the hours it will take to be hungry again.

But what if you waited for the precise moment when the banana matured just for you? Because, isn't waiting the point? You grow more patient, and it grows richer. More delicious. Like our love—which was once green and wonderful (you can make plátanos with green bananas, you know). And now it’s yellowed. And the taste of it meets the buds of my tongue just as it should—a blanket covering over all the parts of me which need you.

So I will wait. Even when the yellow browns and shows its bruises and imperfections. Because I do not believe in fairytales; neither do I believe in bananas that are interminably yellow. But I believe in banana bread. And I read this recipe which says you should always use the ones that to the world seem over-ripened.  “The blacker the banana, the sweeter and more assertive its flavor,” is what it said.

And it made me think of you.

One of my joys as a writer is to help people share their feelings in words for the people they love. If you're curious about the process, reach out to me.

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Jamie Larson