Fig tree dominates the garden, gray and knobby against gray fog, its bare branches grotesque. Like the old, bent parishioners my father would visit, taking me along, a child. They stroked my hands, my woolen dress, reached out with cloudy eyes.
This tree reaches everywhere, as though light can be caught. Slow sun drains through, stirs a wing. Then one morning I see them, green tips of figs hard as emeralds escaping from every knuckled grasp.
The boy was thrown against the ground, his arms flung wide so I could see under the bent grille of the farmer’s truck his narrow chest rise and fall—so I could hear between the swish of passing cars that click of breath and bone.
Even now I watch the rain—but there was no rain— spark against the road. I see his hair— but from where I stood his face was turned— soaked against the ripe fruit of his cheek. Listen,
the bus had stopped for gas. I left my seat and walked across the empty lot hoping for a sink to rinse my mouth. I remember the black field beyond the road, the moonless sky and how I strained to tell heaven from earth.
Truth is, that morning no one was saved. No one lit a cigarette and proclaimed Never again to anything. Strange. How I can see each orange fall from the bed of the truck, thump onto the pavement and roll gently to a stop.
He didn’t see me which is why I was able To sit beneath him in bare woods, close enough To almost touch his six-inch prehistoric beak, Curved scimitar that searched and tapped As he hopped, bobbing, up the oak. His broad black back, shy sweep of wing, Ungainly, yes, but such a sight, and Better yet his outsized head topped By a tuft of flaming red that stuck up straight, And made me smile. A cartoon’s joke, Yet he was real. So were my thoughts That bitter day, mind and memory Bleak as steel until I looked and saw and felt The sudden wild gift of life.