Mother Banana

by Christina Vanthul
First Place (Tie), October 2021
Judged by Donna Emerson

Every morning I sip my Earl Grey,
watch your leaves sway in the morning breeze,
the newest reaching skyward as if to pierce
Florida’s royal skies. The others spill
towards the ground, mounded
and split from weeks of stormy winds.

You wear the oldest leaves like a coat of protection
from cold, though it’s summer now.
Those leaves brown and hang, drooping
to the ground until they become fodder
for you. And your pups. The lemongrass.
The cassava. The bugs living in the soil.

Beneath your leaves, pups grow tall,
bigger than you when I brought
you home a year ago. What a difference
a summer of daily rain makes, drops
cascading along the lines of your leaves,
clinging to the edges, diamonds in

the after-rain sun. The solitary wasps
which pollinate this forest hide from water
beneath your leaves, safe, dry for now.
Soon your fingers of love will emerge,
tiny and green, row after row above
a plump purple flower. I know

you will die then, after feeding my family,
your trunk and leaves food for yours.
Soon – another year, maybe longer,
I will sip my tea in the morning
alone, except for your pups.

I was captivated by this poem’s intimate, carefully observed details. Each stanza is image-rich, as all parts of a home-grown banana tree are recognized and praised, even its raindrops’ “diamonds in the after-rain sun.” We hear the life cycle of this tree which may evoke parallels in our own lives. The poet’s confident voice is calmed by even the end of the tree’s life, when the pups or buttons can be cut and used to propagate a new banana tree. ---Donna Emerson