Journal » Trout 15 » Living Under Big Machines [Blaine Tolentino]
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Living Under Big Machines

Blaine Tolentino

The knife tap and wriggle
of an avocado seed: how to remove a center.
I learned all of my tendering tricks
from my grandmother.
You must be gentle with the fruit
meat. Here, it is like buttery muscle
and the very softest touch
will bruise and ruin your pursuits.
Outside, the trees are chattering sea breaks,
a dull paper brush, waxing the outsides of windows.

When we pull them from the tree,
two cousins and I,
we are picking fruit amongst the sound
of green thrush, tiny zebra finch bird babies,
summer animals,
hopping along the busting trunk,
rivers of torn bark, little orange legs
falling into gaps.
They lose their balance and jolt
off into the leaves
instead of falling clumsy.

Later on in my life, I will catch my aunt
bruising her back in this tree,
smoking cigarettes with a young love
in the highest branch that can hold them,
thinking leaves will hide their legs hanging down.
I never had to look hard
for these ravenous exploits; they were hanging
out of bedrooms like doors had gone missing.

My grandmother was the child of a woman
who was very beautiful when she was young
and very fat when she was old.
She hated my grandmother for growing
out of her mutant eyes and into the sweet
gamine awkwardness of Audrey Hepburn fawnlike eyelashes.
This woman, as vain as passing glances,
seemed to be drinking thunder
when she sipped on cocktail glasses
while the others clinked beer
from crates and boxes.
She was a woman who
had the constitution of a tree, long arms
and roots seeming forever under things –
the type of system for splitting sidewalks,
derailing trains,
just being the way she was,
moving along the way nature intended –

Somehow, though, she was also the lightning,
that tingling break, that feverous death.
How is anything the existence
of one thing and the death of that same thing?
That woman, just doing
as she does.

The stories of my great grandmother
put me to think on creation
and destruction as the same thing;
the philanderous love of basing life
on a curve, yes, always.
Nobody really means anything
that smells like whiskey
and looks like a shotgun.

While my grandmother is undoing
avocado skins, I am chopping tomatoes
in that messy way that puts carnage all over –
even on weird places,
elbows or eyebrows.

My mother, tragic with sleep, wanders in ghostlike,
opening the cabinets to look around
for nothing really.
She asks for some kind of fruit, one
we don't have, and, even though this is her house,
she has no idea why
it is not here. She has been
sleeping for two days, a common occurrence,
once or twice weekly,
since her uncle, my grandmother's brother,
in February.

As she brushes by, there is the hooking
of waist, the nuzzling of cheek, the ongoing
forehead kiss. I always think she
will wake up one day and forget who I am;
so much sleep, I am used to seeing her
under blankets. In the future
I will have no recollection
of what kind of clothes she wore
when I was in elementary school.

New patterns will begin:
she will stop sleeping for complete days,
switch to days only. I will talk to her
for an hour
before bed, after homework is finished
and fall asleep to her matt–cutting sounds
outside my window – the picture frame slice,
blade on plastic surface slide, rip crackle of broken parts.
While the sun comes up, she will be placing
my fathers art in these frames
and put them around the living room
in odd arrangements
of strange symmetry.
She will wake me up,
iron my clothes,
and check my books.
She will go back to sleep while I drink
milk in the breakfast cafeteria
at school, dozing off to morning
lizard sounds and toobright sunlight
warming the dark curtains by the bed.


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© Copyright 2008 Blaine Tolentino & Trout.