Poetry

The House of Figs

Its walls are thick-sliced pise;

the lean-to, wattle ’n’ daub.

A corrugated roof, more ridged than

a shingleback, holds three chimneys,

possums on the nightshift, and gutters

dripping echoes into rusting tanks.

Come nightfall, the kitchen draws us in—

fuel stove at one end; wood heater the other

where folk too slow for front row seats

ice over like the pipes on frosty mornings.

Louvres line verandahs so sleep outs

became sleep ins where wind chill

slips through the slats with

migrating Bogong moths.

Three shades of lilacs scent spring air

near the greening oak

whose bouffant summer look is legend;

so, too, the resident beehive.

Orchard trees bear quinces clad

in moth-eaten fur,

cherries whose white insides surprise,

and a surfeit of plums

but a puzzling distance from the house

the figs grow dense nets of clawing limbs

more suited to Mordor than the farm.

To reach in takes Frodo’s courage.

Lured by soft skins and full-sweet flesh

birds cannot break free.

Their carcasses cause some to pause

but those powerless to resist

are drawn to feast each season,

seeds clinging to fingers and chins.

                      *      *     *

A fire, electrical they said, took the house—

blackened walls and warped tin.

From the menu last night, I chose

figs drizzled with honey.

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