The Sweetest Fig


Academy of American Poets Prize Co-Winner

“‘The worst of sins is not to fall in love,’ said God, with the soft voice of a tango-singer.”
José Eduardo Agualusa, The Book of Chameleons


In Portugal, they call this season a figment of the imagination.

It treads subtly, the dance of a hair falling down your back
where only I can see and watch it
make its way to your left thigh before the breeze comes.
Then, it turns into a bird’s nest or a garden patch somewhere;
that thick shrubbery of Eden, unreserved.

I imagine it stretched, like telegraph wire or the clotheslines
of some rustic Moitas vineyard in the country, where
hares with skinny ears trample the patches of wild poppies
and scatter their droppings, without knowing how much good
they do.  Casting filaments.  Or—across the sea—
the Milton backstreet long ago, worn and wiry,
a preservation of communication and labor.
It could never break; or, if it did,
would be re-fused or refastened by a clever person
(a woman)
refusing the waste.

I’ll never know for sure.  I have already accepted
this.  I really never leave—
only parts of me get anywhere.  The other parts must be

content to wander through eyes that prefer that what-isn’t-there
to the what’s-there.  But I won’t say it like it’s a bad thing
or a good thing; it is a thing that I can live with.

In late spring, we eat it from our garden
turnip kale carrot beet—
the sweetest fig—
and marvel at just how miraculous is a body
that moves,
if even just a little bit.