DAVE SNYDER
THE STORY OF FIGS
 
 
[A woman, Michal, sits on stage with a pile of figs
           which, during the course of the play, she slices.]

[at first glowingly]

            It was to be wrapped
            To be carried off.
            Be encumbered.
            Be wound
            like bed sheets.
            Surrounded.
            Bound.
            Blind.

[pause. slicing.]

            As fruit go,
            the fig is unique.
            Most fruit are formed by the plant’s
            placenta. The fig however is made-up
            of dozens of tiny flowers grown together,
            into one another.
            This is called inflorescence.

            It means there are flowers
            inside the fruit. Makes them
            difficult to pollinate. Were it not
            for the fig wasp

            who lays her eggs inside the fig,
            so that their lives begin
            within the fruit

            surrounded by darkness,
            sweetness.

            The males
            are born practically without eyes
            without wings, and are capable of little
            other than mating
            and chewing through
            the flesh of the fig
            so the females may escape.

            It has been called
                        “the most complicated and remarkable example of male inequity”

[pause. fruit.]

                        What first put me in David’s hands?

            Well. Love. Yes.
            And beauty. Yes.
            And music. Certainly music.
            And dance. The way he danced.
            The way we danced.

            You may have read about my husband.
            You may have read about
            his love life.

            Back then all of Israel knew how successful a soldier he was:

                        Saul has slain his thousands
                        David his myriad

            But anyone who met him thought of
            his music, and his dance,
            and his body.

            When I met him he sang,
            so beautifully,
            people tried to write down
            his songs as he sang,
            so they could remember them.
            Remember him.

            But later when they looked
            back at their notes, they made no sense.
            No one could capture what they’d heard
            and seen. No one could capture
            him at all.

            We met on my fifteenth birthday
            we danced. He
            pressed me to him
            called me “my eyes.”

            He said, “Yes my eyes.
            Shall we dance,
            my eyes”
            He said I was beautiful
            and essential.

            He breathed in my hair
            I smelled him.
            Smelled like him.
            I lay my mouth on his neck.

            Later, he snuck into my chamber
            and in darkness
            as the sheets wrapped around us he
            whispered to me, his voice
            sweet but so low
            I couldn’t understand him
            but it sounded like:
                        Mistake.

[cutting. industriously now.]

            It was even written,
            written,
            “Michal
            Saul's daughter
            loved him.”

            Within a month we were married
                        within a moment,
                        within a bridesprice,

            the day was hot and dizzy.
            I was, after all a princess,
            and say what you will about a monarchy,
            they know celebrations -

            - lasted deep into the night
            beautiful, until
            after the meal, my brother
            Jonathan took me aside
            told me father
            planned on killing my new husband.
            Said it was jealousy.

            What could I do? I was bound.

            I told David to flee.
            And he fled.

            I took a wooden statue to my
            wedding bed, as my groom slinked
            out of town.

            In the middle of the night
            thugs broke down my door
            and stabbed the statue repeatedly.

            The next day I tunneled out
            from my sheets covered
            in sawdust and so
            in sawdust I waited
            for David.

[remembers the pile of figs.]

            Nothing from David.
            I could understand this, I suppose,
            but still, I hoped
            a note would come
            smuggled by some confidant
            rolled-up into some servant’s hat,
            or baked into my dessert.
            Some sign that he was out there
            thinking of me.

            Instead I sat in my chamber
            watching the courtyard
            through the window.

            Until, after five years of this,
            control of me
            went back to my father,
            the marriage was annulled and for fear
            of missing a dower, father
            married me off to a man I’d never met.
            His name was Palti.

            Palti had a farm outside Bahrim,
            fig orchard, some goats, quite a shock
            for a princess
            but that’s what a girl gets
            for saving her husband’s life.

            Life was slow and small.
            I began to worry David
            might be looking for me
            back at home.

            That’s when I started
            writing letters.

                        May 24th,
                        Dear David,
                        Today is our anniversary.

                        Today the fig wasps began emerging
                        from the Smyrna figs, soaked in juice and pollen.
                        Wasps understand how a flower
                        can grow inside
                        a fruit.
 
 
                        May 25th
                        David,

                        A doe-goat gave birth. The umbilical
                        chord wrapped the kid’s neck
                        and my husband Palti
                        saved it just in time.

                        He’s a good man,
                        don’t worry.
 
 
                        May 26th
                        David,

                        The fig wasps continue.
                        Flowers can live inside the fruit
                        long after it’s been picked.

                        So can
                        wasps.
 
 
                        May 27th
                        My sweet,

                        From complications
                        the kid died.
                        The doe survived,
                        but has lost any
                        desire to live.

                        Fig wasps continue.

            I didn’t know
            how to address the letters.
            I’d still heard nothing from David.
            I just wrote David on the envelopes
            and would give a packet of them
            whenever a messenger came by.

            I lived on the farm for ten years.
            Slowly, I wrote fewer and fewer
            letters. Slowly I became more
            settled at the farm.

            Palti was a good man.
            He was patient and kind,
            never forced his will,
            never forced himself
            on me. Slowly I developed
            a happiness there,
            a kind of amiable
            love for my trees,
            for Palti,
            for my life.

            Of course, you become content
            when your desires are bound by
            what you have.

            I had a fig orchard.
            And that was enough.
            Really, I was happy.

            On a summer afternoon, pruning
            the fig branches in the orchard
            I ran into my brother.
                        This was a surprise to me.
                        He lived hundreds of miles away.
            Furthermore, he said David was King
            of all Israel
            and wanted his bride back.
            This was a worse surprise.

            And then came an even worse surprise:
            my heart leapt.
            I was thrilled.

            It was like my wedding day had
            simply been paused
            for fifteen years and I felt dizzy again,
            spun,
            could taste his
            neck on my lips.

            Jonathan and I left straight away
            from the orchard
            I didn’t even say goodbye to Palti.

            What could I have said?

            Still, we saw Palti following us
            towards Bahrim. Jonathan sent some thugs
            to beat him up.

            When I got to Jerusalem they took me
            to a guest room. What did I expect?
            From the window of the room
            was the courtyard. Summer evening.
            Dust and smoke from lamb cooking
            moving in the purple light. I opened
            the window and for a long
            time I sat and watched
            my new home.

            I could see the entryway
            to the city and just at sunset it erupted
            with a procession as if on cue,
            people swarmed and something
            happened between
            a riot and a celebration.

            I didn’t understand
            and in the middle was a man
            dancing, having lost all control,
            dancing naked.

            I can tell you
            after fifteen years I hadn’t forgotten
            how his body moved, nor,
            might I add, had age.

            That was my husband.

            All of Jerusalem around him,
            dancing
            he’s dancing,
            naked,
            smiling,
            naked,
            his balls in his hand

            and there are women,
            old women,
            peasant women,
            thronging him

            and he’s smiling

            and trailing behind him
            a bevy of other women wearing
            the clothing of wives
            and I know they’re his wives

            and I’m one of them.

            It was written
                        about this,
            about me:

            “And she detested him
            in her heart.”

[the fruit is a mess.]

            For how much change
            can time be responsible?
            It is to be
            thrown to the ground.
            To become the earth.
            Be planted.
            Be buried.
            He buried me.
            Planted me to bear fruit.
            In fruit.
                        My anger:
            eyeless
            wingless
            blinded and bound
            encumbered by flesh
            and myself
            tunneling out.
            As love could
            flower inward,
            to make fruit
            to breed wasps,
            to tunnel outward.
                        To flourish,
                        with flower,
            and wasp within,
                        without bearing,
            without him.
 
 
 
Dave Snyder is a poet and gardener from Chicago. His writing has appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, Sentence: A Journal Of Prose Poetics and Seneca Review, and has been performed at the Rhinoceros Theater Festival and PAC/Edge Festival. More work can be found here.