For while we exist death is not present
and when death is present we no longer exist.
The things I now know about figs
are more a matter of what I didn’t know previously
(or could hardly subscribe to)
and the distance or reasons between them
there and here.
Figs were old,
because of being consumed by the old,
and probably as a hedge against death
or whatever it was they were doing there
in the vestibules of themselves,
the old people.
We didn’t have them in our house (the figs),
not because they were foreign precisely
(we had Trotsky and Sholokhov after all)
but to me they were objects that seemed
both exotic and dull as socks.
We had dates in a box at Christmas
about which unvaguely racist comments
were made in the same manner (and every Christmas).
Arab’s toenails or similar said Uncle Bob,
but then he had been tortured by the Japanese
in the war as opposed to at some other time.
But not figs.
Figs were for people with problems down there.
I don’t remember ever being told this
and am sure that I wasn’t in specific terms.
It was an osmotic thing (not emetic);
I absorbed, but certainly never discussed.
Which is why Portnoy’s Complaint
made such an impression upon me,
not the repetitive masturbation,
because that would have been a chosen common shame,
but The Father who sat on the toilet and strained.
And not that he did so,
but more that he complained about it
and glumly at the matter of its fact.
I wondered often then if they didn’t have figs in America.
As it is I’ve come to like them.
They are chewy (like I imagine ears, Bob)
but sweet as candy and now a fulfillment of that grail,
the good-for-you foodstuff that is also very much a treat.
I buy them loose, making forays into the bulk section
of the supermarket like a member of the opposition
amongst folk-singers, activists and various women
who perhaps a few minutes ago were breast-feeding
and close by and in public.
They are an almost sensual pleasure, the figs,
and I fear, as with so many other things (in my earlier life)
that I will end up enjoying them too much,
for despite everything the one lesson of age I have yet to learn
is moderation, in anything, let alone all things.
Bob died, I’m not sure how exactly, I didn’t ask.
I would have been interested to know
what he thought of the war and at the end,
what his regrets were, if there was anything to tell me.
I think of him more now than I did
while he was living and I wonder
who will wonder to themselves about the things
they never thought to ask me once the opportunity
for the asking has long gone by.