first_imgFIGS, “SAID my father to me once, emphatically, “are not fruit.”“Are not fruit.”“Are not vegetables… they are inverted flowers.”“Inverted flowers?” was my puzzled answer.“Inverted… inverted because the flower was too beautiful to put on the outside my boy…that’s right, they couldn’t put the flower the right way around else the bees and other pollinating creatures alike would spend all day on just the figs. That’s right, they’d be kissing and staring at them all day long so as there’d be no time for other flowers see. They had to make the fig inside out for other flowers to live.”When I was younger I often got God and my father confused.“See,” he repeated, “the fig was sacrificed for the others. It had to be.” He paused and gazed through the wet black boughs of the tree he was sitting in, with me. I had grown up around these trees and their figs and their father. We shared that. “You see, the fig is a selfless flower but wretched and jealous as well. It’s all closed up, see?” He held a fig up at me; it seemed to be pulsing like an excited heart. “See? Beauti-ful little balls of emotion.”It began to rain, thick warm syrup. I remember my father’s face more vividly in that moment than at any other point of my life. It was weathered, waxed by the sun and polished by the wind into an icon for me. Framed by ecstatic brown hair and lighted by two liquid blue eyes that seemed only to be made of two atoms each. A mouth stretched around thousands of moving conversations, a mouth broken by the disappointment of loneliness. I still get my father and God confused.Seven years, twenty-three days and an hour after this moment my father died under that same tree. I was twenty-four feet away in the branches of another. He must have been lying there for a while. I worked long hours.When I did get down and discover him lying there I remember feeling calm, mostly. Like that noise a telephone makes when you leave it off the hook, I was in quiet siren. I checked his pulse (not pulsing) and walked back to the cottage. I sat at the table with a large glass of water and a sandwich and waited for him to come in, like always. He always worked longer than me. He didn’t come in. I walked over to the phone and dialled an ambulance. I didn’t cry, I leant forward onto my uneaten sandwich, closed my eyes and went to sleep – it had been a long day. When the ambulance arrived they weren’t sure which of us had done the dying.The hands of a clock are burnt matchsticks – perpetual reminders. But there is a place within the charcoal still contoured like a tree – that gold coaxes hope.I find when I recall the first few days I had lived without my father that my memory has knitted for me a patch-work-quilt of days and years held together by a painful thread. Moments from long ago are placed alongside my immediate pangs. I began the process of assimilating my father’s life into my own. I began wombing him, entombing him and his legacy into my solar plexus. He would have wanted me to mourn on the hoof, I know it, but he knew I was lazy – like my mother. He loved my mother. He took the lump out of her throat and swallowed it for me – but one day it got stuck and he never spoke again. My father was better than adjectives. He was better than my mother’s death.“The sun is a clock. Remember that when you wake up.”“Yes Dad.”The cottage was once idyllic but now it charms through the imperfect teeth of disrepair. The thatch is home to a multitude of chuckling birds and the walls to legions of termites that threaten its cancerous bones. The only stone floor is masked with sky blue lino that flinches and curls away from the skirting board, a plastic wave receding off dead rocks. The windows are filled with grime and glitter from old Christmas decorations. Surrounding these little walls of a house are hundreds of fig trees. Their black elaborate fingers, gloved in bark, touch. In the midst of these trees is a small green headstone baring my mother’s name Mary Pollock and a date twenty-one years and two hundred and thirteen days old. The inscription, embossed with moss, reads “Ripeness is all.” And below it “King (a word missing) William Shakespeare.” She was graceful, I know, I’ve drawn her photo. But I know I don’t look like my photo. You can’t colour a person in without going outside the lines.Sometimes the sun breaks through the clouds like an emergency exit slide inflating from the side of a gigantic white plane that has ditched in heaven. Sometimes the wind flirts with the leaves and you can hear the figs whispering – like lovers in all the urgency of dying. This is the gospel of a body – and just that.“As much as you’ll want to son – never write off anyone. No one deserves to be written off.” Don’t write off. Before I was born my mother and father would bear up in the hard rain as they harvested their figs together – their livelihood, their black eyes, their orchestra. They would talk about me. In all these constellations of beauty I find solace. Figs, Figures and Figureheads continues next week…ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2006last_img read more

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