By Josh Boardman - Jul 23, 2018
There’s a fruitseller’s plantain here. Sometimes early morning when the sun is winter white striking through the clouds the first birds start singing the next block over and a single plantain sneaks off from the cart. A big little finger. Green as dunegrass with brown scuffed along the crease. The stem cracks off from the others crinkles as it swallows the fruit. The other end is bruised and flat and a little soft. An impression on top makes a pupil like catseye. The fruitseller ought not have drifted off in his claycolored prayer robe beside all these paintbrights—these fruits have legs. Berry boxes yawn yellow apples roll on their stems California grapes drop off the vine and push off. This plantain jumped straight from the basket to a passing pocket. Rode a few blocks by the bush with leaves the size of oildrops hiding at least thirty forty sparrows squalling their beaks off. Then lay out lengthwise on the table to be watched. To be watched. Long and underripe and reaching. Split from the palmstem that binded it. Four other knuckleless fingers couldn’t make a fist.
The plantain on the table here. Green fled overnight. Now yellow is a virgin showing every nick and scuff sustained in its severed life. Brownish pencil strokes seep into black. A rusty rash around the stem. It appears harder. It appears markered. The plantain gestures with its end to the open window where the sun shakes its rays from treebranches in naked curls. Dirt drinks up the promise of its warmth—the same dirt that spit up while the plantain made today’s trip the same dirt that gritted the leather like a hand rooted through the ground and clapped off. Lovely to feel the season warm as days tick by but that’s when time’s flow moves too slowly for a body traversing a smaller span—this plantain here. Too much sun chasing the winter out will cook this little fruit. Its back faced the sunny window all yesterday as if curled around the body of a pet. Its belly still green. That’s how it happens. A young fruit can show itself to the sun or lock up in the refrigerator. Some kind of life.
The plantain stretches out on the table. Cast aside its verdigris robe and stalks forth in fleshy yellow. Yellow of a sunflower yellow of acid yellow piled on yellow of the yellowbacked book they arrested Oscar Wilde for carrying yellow in curdles glowing from inside and gushing onto everything around. Yellow of burnished gold. The very same yellow. Yellow sunlight tries sneaking in but cannot further yellow this bare yellow sheath. Yellow cities famous for yellow soak in plantain dye French towns in the yellow south or yellow Naples or New York when yellow summer cooks off the transients and leaves a shimmering goldenbrown yellow. Yellow to generate heat. Yellow to peel off shirts and pants and leave them in a bedfoot puddle. No the puddle’s not yellow. Yellow laps up lamplight and honeysweet lips. Yellow bruises like gamboge pool from ligature its sooty creases converging on the stemmy knob. Meat feeling straight through the yellow rind. It is ochre and tumescent and slick. While this yellow plantain spreads in public no person walks past no hand swipes at screens no eye looks past but sees this pert little fruit. Yellow sopping with attention.
Here is the plantain on the table. It tends to a gentle curve. Creases in its rind are thick brown highlights. Its ends are twists of wood. It warps like the arc segment of a very large circle. Freckles along the spine darken the skin to the shade of asparagus piss. On the inside a soft flat pit of skin pushes off the stem. Here is the final patch of firm cold green. It transmits a resinous grease onto the skin. The plantain appears to be in slight physical discomfort. The plantain shows one large blueblack bruise on its back from transport and several smaller nicks and cuts whose narrow impressions are greyed and scaly. The coloration exemplifies a process known as enzymatic browning by which the unstable polyphenols in a banana react to the oxygen in the atmosphere and produce melanins. Another bundle of bananas stares down from the other side of the glass separating the kitchen. They are a uniform gold whose enzymatic browning occurs in slightly variated spots similar to the camouflage of a big cat. One has been cut in half through the rind. These bananas are for eating. This plantain is not. This plantain is for watching.
Here’s this twosided plantain. A story goes like this. A traveler comes upon this fruit on a table. She sees the two sides of the plantain its back wrinkled scarred almost total black but its belly still a handsome yellow. This plantain needs some attention she says. She tends to the dark side of the fruit scrubbing it with soap and water and turning it away from the light. She is surprised when the peel falls open with speech—today will be bad the plantain says if the traveler travels she will encounter storms horizontal rain the people on the road will all get lost. Having spoken the plantain seals back up. Maybe I should wait till tomorrow the traveler says. Next day the dark side has shriveled even more the light side slightly tarnished. She massages what remains of the yellow she smells its floral perfume. She appreciates. The peel opens again—today will be good the plantain says if the traveler travels the sun will smile the wind will be cool the people on the road will know who to thank when they reach their destination safely. The traveler thanks the plantain and departs. The plantain remains here on the table. Sunny and shadowy. Darkening a bit more each day.