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American Life in Poetry: For the Love of Avocados

By Ted Kooser U.S. poet laureate, 2004-06

There are those like me who can’t even tell when an avocado is ripe, and those who know exactly how to perfectly prepare a ripe one. Here’s a poem of avocado expertise by Diane Lockward from “The Uneaten Carrots of Atonement,” published by Wind Publications. The poet lives in New Jersey.

For the Love of Avocados

I sent him from home hardly more than a child.

Years later, he came back loving avocados.

In the distant kitchen where he’d flipped burgers

and tossed salads, he’d mastered how to prepare

the pear-shaped fruit. He took a knife and plied

his way into the thick skin with a bravado

and gentleness I’d never seen in him. He nudged

the halves apart, grabbed a teaspoon and carefully

eased out the heart, holding it as if it were fragile.

He took one half, then the other of the armadillo-

hided fruit and slid his spoon where flesh edged

against skin, working it under and around, sparing

the edible pulp. An artist working at an easel,

he filled the center holes with chopped tomatoes.

The broken pieces, made whole again, merged

into two reconstructed hearts, a delicate and rare

surgery. My boy who’d gone away angry and wild

had somehow learned how to unclose

what had once been shut tight, how to urge

out the stony heart and handle it with care.

Beneath the rind he’d grown as tender and mild

as that avocado, its rubies nestled in peridot,

our forks slipping into the buttery texture

of unfamiliar joy, two halves of what we shared.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.

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