Excerpts from the Compendium of the Fig Wasp and the Fig

A) it’s actually not a fruit. It’s an inflorescence. Florets,
********bulbous stem. You get it. Ostiole. Seed and flower.

C) every species of Ficus has a specific wasp that fertilizes it.

D) the queen of the fig wasps, small enough to squeeze into it,
********enters the fig. She may snap her antennae. She may tear her wings.

F) Earlier, I said inflorescence and ostiole just to impress you.

G) Somewhere I read if the wasp fails to pollinate the fig, the tree
********has dropped it, killing the wasp eggs. But that can’t be true.

I) Tell me that’s not true. Who would be so cruel?

J) Born wingless, the male spends his life in a single fig. He
********knows to tunnel through darkness, for the queen, who
********leaves him, as she must, in exchange for light.

M) At the art exhibit. Your plate piled with figs, mixed
********nuts, soft cheeses. There was so much to love
********or nothing at all. You hadn’t decided. I hadn’t asked.

P) the queen sheds her pollen dust, dies in the fig’s chamber. It makes
********quick work of her, nourishing itself.

R) I read somewhere that figs are an aphrodisiac, because of the death inside. If
********so, Black Mission, Sierra, Calimyrna, King… should I go on?

T) The strangler fig begins as a seed but grows to hollow its host tree. The wood
********useless. It’s trunk often gnarled, knotted.

V) Before we left the exhibit. Your pockets stuffed. So many figs.

W) For some reason, I thought of the biblical garden, in which no figs grew.

X) The gallery lights dimmed. Softly, in the background, Clair De Lune played.
********You know, Oceans 11? The Bellagio fountains? After Danny steals away with Tess?

Z) In the beginning, was the fig. You fed it to me. And it was good.

 

***

Nathan McClain is the author of Scale (Four Way Books, 2017), a recipient of fellowships from The Frost Place, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and a graduate of Warren Wilson’s MFA Program for Writers. His poems and prose have recently appeared or are forthcoming in New York Times Magazine, upstreet, The Rumpus, Poem-a-Day, and Verse Daily. He teaches at Hampshire College.

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