My father planted the fig tree
a few summers before he left.
Before the fig tree he grew snapdragons,
purple lips with scarlet throats
and before that, honeysuckle flowers
I’d pinch open and press to my tongue.
He planted a Japanese maple which
flowered higher each year in
throbbing tones of rhubarb.
Deciduous, they come from Japan,
also native to Korea and China.
The fig tree is native to the Mediterranean
and parts of Asia. When we moved to Oregon,
my mother said people at the grocery store
would stare, like we were strange birds.
Those days, everyone wanted to place me.
India! I’d plead to the sound
of their escalating questions,
India! India! India!
I had never been to India.
In the backyard,
my father hands me a fig.
My teeth burst into white
flesh, scarlet veins.
This is not my land.
Any of ours, any of it.
My father has already left.
My mother wants to travel,
to show me the places we’re from.
I don’t think you can understand
until you go there, she says.
You’ll feel something.
The fig tree grows over the fence
and annoys the neighbors.
Squirrels come from all over.
They hang from the top branches,
drunk and feasting on the fruit.
Cover Art: Ray, by Veronica Marshall