Onyx Publications
  • Big, The Elusive Avocado, and 
    ​A Warm Spell in Late February

    Written By: Francis Fernandes

    © 2021 by Francis Fernandes

There's an elephant in the room.
It's actually quite small and glassy:
nestled by the window between
the potted palms and the essential oil
diffuser. The fine mist from the diffuser
keeps the leaves moisturized
in these cold dry months.
When I glance over there, it stands out.
The elephant, I mean.
Not ponderously. But with a shimmer,
especially when bathed in the light
of the diffuser. Like the ghost
of a distant star that had its day
in what is probably now some fading
corner of the universe.
It was almost a year ago that
my daughter gave me the plastic
3D-puzzle. It took me forever
to assemble it – piece by tiny piece.
forever is skewed with subjectivity, 

whereas the terms shared custody and 

far away are measurable.
Some words are big.
And there's no getting around them.
They are good at lumbering and
thundering through the world.
Atomized into vapour, their particles
spin furiously around the spiral
galaxy inside your head.
Get over it, they tell you.
I remember, when I held it
in my hands and fiddled with
the individual pieces, ignoring
the step-by-step instructions,
how she watched me
with a sparkling concentration –
willing me to find the right
connections and complete the structure.
We placed it by the luxuriant palms
because that's where it seemed
to belong. 

The Elusive Avocado

The Canadians were being very, very loud. It was something the
Russians were not exposed to. They were in a closed society. They
were looking at our fans and thinking what’s the matter with those
people? We had a gentleman who would play the trumpet. I think they
threw him in jail.

   - Marcel Dionne (reserve player, Team Canada, 1972)

I plan to watch the final game
of that '72 series tonight,
Canada against the Soviets,
so I need one that's just right
for the guacamole. When I dunk
my sweet potato fries, I don't want
to be distracted while my eyes
follow the puck. Once, as a player,
my stick got stuck in the netting
behind our own goal and the other team
scored while I was still trying to free it.
The coach was merciless and benched me
for the rest of the game. A stocky middle-aged
woman stands exactly ten feet to my left,
eyeing me curiously. She does it

in that quasi disapproving manner, the one
Germans have perfected since the days
Napoleon ransacked their towns on his way
to his own great disappointment in Russia.
She stares as though her body language
were something internal, like Schopenhauer's
moods – or maybe even Schrödinger's cat.
We might all be wearing surgical masks,

but I can pick up on these details. I've lived
here long enough. Plus I'm half-German
myself, which gives me an advantage
when jockeying for perspective. I'm still
fondling the dark green knobby fruit,
determined to find and claim the right one
for my little feast. Her patience seems

to run out: she raises a latexed hand
and flourishes it at me, asking with a tad
muffled indignation: “
Müssen Sie alle anfassen??
What I am supposed to say? How can I find
the perfect one without touching them?
I move an inch closer to her. She gasps
and drops the turnip she was holding.
Then she takes a quick step back.
When I bend down to retrieve the innocent

rutabaga-thing, she slides further away.
I just wanted to show her how hard
my avocado was. But now it feels like
a dance of sorts, a green grocer's fandango
fuelled by terror of invisible things

(not to mention my goal to create
a sublime dip): a dance, I say, involving
two keenly discerning shoppers
and a bunch of produce that certainly
aren't getting the credit they deserve.
So instead of responding, I turn back
to my brothers and think of that Texas Tornados 

song about someone reaching for a pepper
and someone else grabbing a tomato.
I'm humming the tune when it suddenly
dawns on me: the referee in those final games
in '72 – with both teams performing
their own unforgettable rough-and-tumble
tango – was a German who made some very 

questionable calls. All in favour of the Soviets
of course. But I don't want that to spoil
my day. We know who wins in the end.
The most exciting clash on ice calls
for tenderness in a time of cold war angst.
I want to make peace with a world that is
slightly stir-crazy and bored. I want to go home
and make my guacamole. So, as my fellow
shopper disappears down the canned goods
aisle with her noisy cart, I go on rifling
through the bin, trying to coax the right one
out with the gentle words:
Wo bist du mein lieber Freund?” 

A Warm Spell in Late February

woos me out of the house,
along with Thelonius Monk
and his 
Straight, No Chaser album,
and I have to think of the time
my teenage daughter wisecracked:
How can he be the loneliest monk
if he plays in a quartet?
Last weekend was so cold
we took running starts and glided
on strips of ice – in these very fields 

where today they throw Frisbees
and run around in shorts and t-shirts. 

She isn't here now. That's plain to see. 

But she would have appreciated
the double take, this startling
change of regalia in our midst –
even if she does find it increasingly 

hard to get her head out of those 

anime and manga worlds.
The sun is warm on my cheeks
as the piece 
Japanese Folk Song
hits full stride. The piece goes on
for over sixteen minutes.
The man's odd-time stuttering
bobs with a Far East swing
like a bunch of brilliant balloons 

jostling in the sky, while his 

band-mates enter one by one and do 

their thing. I go through the world 

with these headphones over
my beanie cap, nodding
to the changes, to the drawn
out rasping and wonderful chiming, 

as though paying homage
to a season that is furiously
out of sync. Time will pass,
I know. And soon enough, I realize, 

she'll be there, saying something 

off-beat again – like a good jazz 

phrase. Or like some renegade 

triangle soloist gone all Monk.