My Mouth Desires Figs
The room is overstuffed
with sherry chat
and sandwich-triangle smiles.
vulgar with gravy,
slide malign on fine-bone china.
The mourners toss
words like fishing lines
hoping to craft a net
to contain the thrashing tail
of that ancient sea-monster, grief.
They haul up the topic of poisoned figs
prominent in the latest BBC series:
a common homicidal device
of the latter-day Romans
Figs – the last food we shared –
lush, purple-pink figs
grown by her hand,
like laughter in our mouths.
I take a forkful of meatball
but my mouth desires figs.
will neither chew nor swallow.
I gag into the gaping room,
the sea-monster’s tail
thrashing in my throat.
Floral with hippie optimism,
they name the twins: Zen and Bliss,
realise their dream of living in rainforest paradise –
where mould infests the corners of stillness
and bush-rats gnaw at the chopping board.
At three, the twins visit suburbia:
unused to words like ‘no’ and ‘nappy’,
the girls shit in carpeted corners.
They feral-feed at parties, cramming
salami, sausages, chicken, chops
into their orgiastic mouths
before their vegan parents can begin
to rant about the perils of dead flesh.
At fourteen they rebirth themselves
as Zed and Blast,
join the army cadets,
try to befriend the loggers’ sons –
whose slow calculating eyes
wonder if it’s true
that hippy chicks are easy meat.
A slippery dirt road
winds us down to a neat shed.
A hand-painted sign
instructs us to ring the bell.
a boy strolls over to sell
his grandmother’s fruit.
They are knobbly and garish.
He waits, formal.
I take a liberty, lift one,
inhale its lustre.
Impertinent, I ask,
‘Are these good?’
The boy risks a smile
across his closed country face,
‘These are Red Romans’ he offers,
tasting sumptuous flesh
in the very name.
We buy, extravagantly,
don’t regret a single globe:
each evening they light up bland hotel rooms,
each afternoon they fragrance the car,
after each bushwalk, they baptise our mouths
with aromatic succulence.