Back to Issue Seventeen.

fig leaf



Another dream of you, fig leaf. The same almost
                 every night: I’m naked. And cold.

Underbrush, thorn brambles, pine trees, hanging
moss, the mist of early morning
                        streaming all the green veins.

Beneath the canopy, I lose my sense of direction.
            I thirst for no one,
fig leaf, but you. But you’re too difficult to find.

Your branches don’t bend like they used to.

           I take sinew and a bone needle,
sew you to you. But you don’t hold together. You

never hold, and I have to start again:—
           here, the fig leaf;
             here, the covering with the fig leaf.

The Lord made me naked but I don’t want to be the way
           the Lord made me.

My eyes have been opened. I know good and evil and you
are good.
                 For the first time in years, I’m ready to live
the rest of my life. But it has gotten harder to hide.

I’m naked and afraid. I need your covering, fig leaf.
           I need you to hold me,
as your branch held you,
                          forever in future tense.

Don’t leave me alone with the Lord. Because
I can’t take you with me. I’m awake.

I awoke. I still wake up each morning.
           Cold and afraid. Kicking off the sheets.



Collage of memories that forms a box



after Joseph Cornell

I forgot the things I kept: the ball dropping on New Year’s,
           the diesel trucks humming
                                the name of a sad old love song
my grandmother played me once but now I can’t remember
                       how it goes...

circling the city for an hour looking for a parking spot,
                                                                    your body spread out
across polyester bed sheets, a footprint
            in the mud that says Hey, I’m up ahead, I’ll meet you there,

the birthday cake with your name spelled wrong, the vanilla candles
            you smell in the store but don’t buy,
                                                    the largemouth bass we released
                                into your swimming pool that died an hour later

because we didn’t know it couldn’t breathe chlorine,
                                               the furniture we assembled together
on the living room carpet, the fertilizer tossed in the backyard
            that caught the light
                           like tiny emeralds, the bus with empty seats
but still we both had to stand,
                                         the woman who took down
our order wrong but we ate it anyway, you taking the first bite,

            you tripping on the cobblestone street, the tape you pulled
off the cassette spools,
                          the suitcases that took years to unpack,
                                                  a yoga mat tucked under your arm,
            the chum bag dragged behind the boat
to draw fish to our bait, to whisper Come closer, it’s safe.

Once the pine trees grew tall enough,
                            we cut a trail, walked barely under their branches,
the bed of pine needles soft under our feet, the machete sheath
            bouncing against my thigh.

And the year we planted the seedlings, each a foot long:—
                                       pulled one from a tarp bundle, pressed it
              into the soil, your hand covering then uncovering.

And that time walking you home in the first snow,
           the wine bottle you grabbed
                                                    when you said it was your turn,
the DC zoo in mid-summer when none of the lions
                         would come out from their plaster rock caves,
box after cardboard box of your things
                 I carried and loaded into your trunk
                                                    when it was space you wanted,
the flatbread you rolled up and dipped in olive oil, said Here, try this.

            Your bed we had to push against the window overlooking
the street—its intersection we could barely see,
                                       its light playing off the wet asphalt—
because the air-conditioning was broken
                                                 and it was too hot upstairs.

That was one I kept. The forgotten staircase,
                                                                 the forgotten box
            hidden underneath one of the forgotten stairs in the staircase,

you prying up the stair with a hammer,
                                                    pulling out the cigar box I hid
when I was a child—filled with bottle caps, plastic coins,
                                                                baseball cards, a water gun.

Let’s make a new map. Let’s put the box back, but pick
           a new stair, one we’ll both remember, one I won’t forget.

I’ll let you pick: the ocean still cold in April, the red bird
            flying into his reflection on my kitchen window
                                                                        and doing it again,
the bike you bought me that I never rode,
                                       the rock ledge you jumped into
the lake from because you knew there were no rocks
                             that you couldn’t see from above,
the letterbox on my front door, the sidewalk covered in salt,
             all that I was waiting for, the letterbox on my front door.


William Fargason’s poetry has appeared in New England Review, Barrow Street, Indiana Review, The Baltimore Review, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. He earned a MFA in poetry from the University of Maryland. He is currently a PhD candidate at Florida State University. He lives with himself in Tallahassee, Florida.

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