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Bananas


ISSUE:  Spring 2015

A monkey with the muttonchops and lips
of Henrik Ibsen barks, and creatures
on the forest floor stand still to sniff
and listen. There, a traveler may pick,
according to Jules Verne, a fruit “healthy
as bread and succulent as cream.” Buddha
ate bananas in that realm. And Jesus
would have loved them, if he lived nearby,
or later. Muhammad with his wisdom
brought about the great diffusion of bananas
west, into the Andalusian caliphate where Berbers
ate black figs. Experts say banana, Spanish,
comes from Portuguese, from Wolof
slave merchants who got it from the Berbers’
Arabic, banaana, meaning finger.
They don’t know. Five hundred years ago
fine tailors made kimonos for the summer heat 
from fabric woven of the softest, innermost
banana leaf. Bashō, named for his banana plant,
wore bashofu, one student says, and wrote
while kneeling on a carpet of banana silk.
Now, thanks to peonage abroad, we find
the sweet banana cheap and plentiful.
Former rabbi Eli Black, a family man
in middle age, after he bought United Fruit,
in conscience paid his workers six times more,
and when the company, and then his conscience,
and then bribes and tax schemes, failed,
he took his briefcase, bashed the window
from an office forty-four floors up,
and threw his papers and himself
out of the New York skyline into the street.

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