Skip to main content

Fig Leaves Are Shaped Like an Open Hand

A poem inspired by a father who grew fig trees.
  • Author:
  • Updated:

Somewhere my father’s soul still dissects oil carburetors,

erratic auto electric systems and failed furnaces. Fixers

like him are special made. Somewhere, he gardens still

shaping fig trees with abundant undulating branches,

dispenses their bounty to restless sweet driven souls.

His figs so tender they bruised just by being held. Within,

a mass of flowers, plasma pink, compressed, surrounded

by a narrow band of white, green skin; honeyed droplets

oozed to the surface, sugar on the fingers.

My father brought his story to New York, by way of Istanbul,

but rarely spoke it, dreamed nightmares and Turkish Figs,

condensed by drying, taut on slender white chords.

Not much speech in a tongue not his own, enough to find a large woman

in a small body who spoke often and loud against the lack of health care,

Japanese internment and poor wages, which he earned, not caring for

possessions unless they were for fixing.

Nothing could fix his lungs embedded with asbestos, his citizen’s

gift for fixing battleships. One day he phoned, breath almost breaking:

Don’t come there’s nothing you can do here. I went home anyway,

held his hand, stroked his arm, sat until his breath becalmed and died.

Left a nail puller, several sets of wrenches, grateful neighbors and

every gift I gave him, still not used. They say the gods eat ambrosia,

I know it’s figs.

Hilda Welch writes in Portland, Oregon, where she is a life partner, mother, grandmother, peace activist and gardener.

To share and discuss your favorite poems and poets, check out our Garden Verse section in the Co-Horts Forum.