Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Fig Tree Joins the Singing

Five years ago an Italian family
walked the park near the road where I live,
their big hands filling buckets with figs.
Then the park was suddenly bereft of the tree
and the family, as if the ritual was now only
a ghost of my morning walks.

I told myself they had flown back to their
home country. Later, I noticed the fig tree
hacked to a stump. Tractors were mowing the soccer
field in all directions. Every now and again, magpies
anchored their beaks into mown grass,  a kookaburra
laughed,  and galahs waddled their pink and grey silks,
crunching and moaning at the same time.

Two years ago, a limp wet rag. One year and the fig 
tree is sprouting a sweet politeness, overshadowed 
by a large gum. I thought they might be tree buddies,
as if the older eucalypt was playing God, protecting
young Adam's first cloth. The tree rising up
from earth, the hole at the base of the fruit
as an exit for sweetness to its puzzle inside.

The ostoile, as they call it, drips nectar for ants
and birds. When green skins purple, they signal
a store of jam for the old families who've seen fig trees
explode from the treads of tanks, or simply die
in the ground poisoned by war.  
When figs ripen in the southern hemisphere
the last fruits are withering in the north.

Vandals posing as gardeners had put the tree down,
today it labours skyward, a phenomenal thing reaching
to meet green parrots dropping seed husks,
the fruit's tiger-stripes curving at the apex,
and the mud universe of wasps waiting
bat-like above the fingers of ovoid petals.
It only takes minutes for the queen to lay eggs
for a symbiotic hatching of pink florets.

Why did it receive so much attention?
So what if figs fell and decomposed?
So what if caved-in flesh became projectiles
under shoes? So what if neighbouring Italians
acquired God's free gift? The old women up
in the branches disappearing into their scarves. 
Who was the ripeness for, anyway?
If this tree could speak do you think
it might say more than massacre or theft?

There is a stillness at present in the park. Every once
in a while magpie larks let out a 'too-wit', and parrots
rebound in overtones. You know that the tree
is reaching out from beneath its host, waiting
for the old women to return with Italian songs,
and the men with their heads and shoulders
in the clouds, sluicing juice into gaping mouths.

Even the tree gives out its milky sap
strengthening its ancient ceremony
of renewal, lifting its course to the green fields,
the pink-and-grey maps of the parrots' wings.
And underneath that overshadowing eucalypt
with all that rattling going on above, is the fig tree
of leaf, of man, of woman, rising up from the earth
to join all that singing.



Published by Australian Poetry Centre, Melbourne

of Arc & Shadow

of Arc & Shadow
Published by Sunline Press, WA

The Joyous Lake

Par écrit

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