A Fig Tree Grows in Brooklyn
by LindaAnn Loschiavo
Italians love their fruited trees—those figs.
Umberto, nonno mio, introduced
A gathering young family of this stock
To Brooklyn, pruned, clipped, prayed, devoted days,
Still pinned to memories of older ways,
Refusing to let inconsistency
Impose its stay. Allegiance to black fruit
I learned while earning a privilege to pick
Those soft and sticky fichi, synonym
For much not said in front of children then.
Still green, this fig, my oval office when
One's cultivation mattered—so we'd stretch chance,
Obsessed with spreading coffee grounds around,
Massaging the parameters. But still
Bold leaves perpetuated out of spite
Perhaps because life's spelled all wrong, New York
Much harder than in Naples (winter-poor)—
Though rich potentially for those who add
Refuse from kitchens, thick rinds, sour grinds
To foreign roots. It seems some trees are big
Misunderstandings in America,
Its cool completeness not in need of things
Italian. Nonno mio struggles, pits
His fading strength against Gravesend's deep weeds,
All dirt familiar. His pipe's a spoon to stir
Blue air, attached to him, one pleasure's home.
This Neapolitan tic: nature holds,
Poured into quarrels too small to contain it.
He prunes. He tries encouraging ripe figs
To form as if he knows, when he's detached
From this, freed trees will do just what they want.
A native New Yorker, LindaAnn Loschiavo is an award-winning journalist, reviewer, and poet. She was a featured poet in the journal Italian Americana (Winter 1997) and one of the poets featured at "First Night Out in New Jersey" in 1998. Her translations of nineteenth century Sicilian poems will appear soon in Arba Sicula along with her essay and research into the previously unpublished oral literature of the Eolian Islands.