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

Nisha Atalie

Nisha Atalie is a mixed poet of South Asian and European descent from the Pacific Northwest. She is a poetry editor at MASKS and her poems have been published or are forthcoming in CALYX, Hunger, Tinderbox Poetry, Breakwater Review, and elsewhere. She received the 2021 Eileen Lannan Poetry Prize.

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