In the City of Panorama

Some trees are male, some female;
Our house had four of them,
And though I circled them every day as a kid—
Looking for any protrusions, danglings or slits—
I could never muster the courage
To ask Dad or Mom
Let alone the tree itself:
Are you a man or a woman?

Between the sweet gum—
Where the June bugs clung
And hovered down gracefully
Like fairies onto the dusty screen door
I knifed near the handle
So that I could sneak back in
Without disturbing the fallen
Seed pods, sharp, sneezed in the yard—
Ammunition to play fight—
Aiming for exposed skin,
Hurting each other for a laugh,
Never to wound,
Practicing for our turn to play
The game our parents were so good at.

The avocado—
Whose bird-pecked fruit
Dangled rotten, until winds beyond us
Plunged them to their guacamole death,
Thudding on the roof in the early morning
Like a giftless Santa Claus
In the dead of summer
When Dad’s mistress—
A friend, as he referred to her—
Wore midriff Led Zeppelin T-shirts
And demanded to be more than his wife,
As she rammed her car into ours—
Two hours late to school—
Until he was fed up with her torrid love,
Got out of the car,
And cracked her jaw
As easily as the pits expelled
From the avocados’ bellies—
Seamless in its violence
As one who loved someone so much
That they hated them:
He hated her more
Than I’d ever seen him hate Mom;
That’s why she hated his girlfriend too.

The olive—
Never once believed
That my short life was far more
Contorted than its deformed
Branches and elephant skin,
But it understood why Dad
Would rather party with his girlfriend
Than sleep in the same bed as Mom
A room away from ours,
Where he was supposed to rest
Like an ax behind glass
For when nightmares came
A simple shatter could bring about
Its warm grip to warm your hands,
Rather than the chill
Hacking down my spine.
Its sun-tanned berries—
Regurgitated skins and pits on the asphalt—
Exposed the tires percussive
Rolling down the driveway
In neutral, his breath geared low
Knowing that whatever it was
That he was leaving to do
Wasn’t because he loved us.

And sweet pittosporum tree—
Whose fallen leaves lay on the grass,
Disgraced stars from nights before,
Laughed with you like pork rinds crackling in oil
Attempting a sneak attack on my little sister,
Its sticky seed ovaries fell
Broken on the windshield
Of Mom’s silver Toyota—
Dad’s car in his mind—
Whose windows she pounded
As the weight of her tears
Hung heavy knowing that
When you begged somebody
To take you back,
You did it out of pain,
Not out of love.

By the time I had sex
And love had bloomed and died
Deep inside my trunk,
I realized that all the trees
Shading our house growing up
Must’ve been female,
Especially the one growing weary—
Rings beneath her eyes
Giving away her age—
Whose roots buried deep
In the house she made into a home,
And the three births she wove into a family,
Because they all stayed in their place
The day that he left us.


Photo by Rafael De Nadai on Unsplash

Jose Oseguera

Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share; the accounts that often go untold because no one wants to hear about them. His writing has been featured in Meat for Tea, Sky Island Journal, The Esthetic Apostle, The McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the "Best of the Net" award and the "Pushcart Prize."