Fruit of the Diaspora
IMAGE: Spencer Welch
Elizabeth Best, PhD, a former linguistics lecturer and newspaper editor, is currently a middle school teacher and mentor in Louisville, Kentucky. She has one poetry publication, Barbed Wire & Roses (2000), and is revising two poetry manuscripts. Her poetry was shortlisted for the 2021 Bridport Prize.
Hard core economics regarded my fore parents as prime resources
to be seeded, sorted, and sold like saplings of any fruiting tree.
Human capital, they supplied labor on demand to fund dynasties
from their soiled existence under callous hearts and a brutal sun.
Despite fractures from random plucking, they grew thick skins
and tough hearts, reached high and deep on what they were fed,
ripened, served many, and avoided dropping prematurely dead.
The narrative of my ancestors echoes that of the breadfruit tree,
whose radicle roots suffered multiple fractures from uprooting
and endured repeated testing by forceful transplanting,
but its genus retained vigor in the xylem and phloem of memory.
As trade-able produce expected to be fruitful and to multiply,
both braved shipment, crammed in holds such as those of Bligh.
As offspring of such life-affirming fruit, I shall never forget
that berthed vessels, pregnant beyond conceived capacity,
retched onto ravished soil their captured seed, picked to be
grafted and marked to bear domestic heat, but never expected
to be transmuted in the breeding, withstand recurring shock,
and grow to branch multi-cultured hybrids of hardier stock.
I grew up with tales of ancient branches that served as wind
breaks to shield ripe fruit from storms that bobbed and weaved
to shatter limbs, thrash trunks, leach life-giving sap, and leave
scars, traumas, and depressions many generations deep.
For survival, mature clusters flung themselves far from home,
while raging gusts blasted young ones found hanging out alone.
Across the Diaspora, a few thrive within gated gardens, and on
boulevards of dreams reaching to heights of uncertainty. Many
fall, robbed of taste by forced ripening, spaced out in alleys,
choked in asphalt jungles or gutted within the precincts of God.
Others flounder in the middle passage of unquenched longing,
or lose themselves while searching for oases of too easy getting.
Often shaken down and cast onto global waste dumps, we must
continue converting refuse to compost to fertilize our future.
We must rear saplings with the knowing that within each sphere
lies matter to make ends meet and means to sprout in any soil.
Whether subjected to a roast, repeatedly dunked in a pickle, or
beaten to purée, we must preserve taste and boost resiliency—
that expressive gene in the primal spore of our fruitful legacy.