Poems

Sean Wayman: ‘The Strangler Fig’

The Strangler Fig

I sauntered back towards my former school
to see the ivy on the sandstone walls,
to greet the courtyard jacaranda’s plumes
and do a circuit of the lecture halls.

But when I looked up at the golden stones
to see the ivy tendrils interlaced,
the walls were not as I’d remembered them—
a metamorphosis had taken place.

The old attachments had been torn away
and now a strangler fig had taken root.
To judge from how it held the sandstone blocks,
its sense of self-belief was absolute.

The fig had eaten up a nearby tree.
From there, its tentacles had spread abroad.
Except for having seen its lofty home,
I would’ve deemed the plant a grasping fraud.

The way it swept down from a mighty height,
you would’ve sworn it had a bold intent.
Perhaps it wanted to dismantle things
or force a sudden change of government.

But once its gangly arms had reached the wall,
they seemed to lovingly caress the stone,
as if they rather liked the neighbourhood
and longed to claim it as their very own.

While standing there in utter bafflement,
I heard some primates in their treetop eyrie.
As one who spoke a common lexicon,
their gibber had the sound of high-blown theory.

The modish jargon which these scholars mouthed
bore scant relation to the world beneath.
Their stock response to all competing sounds
was angry baring of their pointed teeth.

Then as they feasted on the ruddy figs,
I saw the whole shebang for what it was.
The school now functioned as a monkey house,
and truth and beauty were a hopeless cause.

And so I turned and quickly slipped away.
It seemed my actions had been overbold.
For me, the time had come to recognise
the fig tree’s uncontested stranglehold.

Sean Wayman

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