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My Father and the Fig Tree

Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye

A. H.

on 16 May 2011

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Transcript of My Father and the Fig Tree

My Father and the Figtree Naomi Shihab Nye Form/ Structure:
definition: the way words are arranged in lines, stanzas, and rhythm and rhyme within the units.
application: free verse...no "rule" to the number of lines within the five stanzas. Form
Conventional: fixed rules with specific number of lines, meter and rhyme scheme, and a definite structure. Examples: sonnet, ballad, epic, ode, and elegy poems.
Organic: shape and pattern of the poem form from the content of the poem Vocab from the Poem:
vivid:–adjective: strikingly bright or intense, as color, light, etc.: a vivid green.
Joha: trickster figure in Palestinian folktales
Allah: Islam; Muslim name for God.
okra: a shrub bearing beaked pods.
emblems:a sign, design, or figure that identifies or represents something. Naomi Shihab Nye Born: March 12, 1952 of St. Louis, Missouri
Lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City
in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas.
Recieved her Bachelor's from Trinity College.
Author of numerous books including You and Yours. Voices her experience through her poems and short stories as being an Arab-American. Uses heritage and peace that overflow with a humanitarian spirit. Her poems and short stories have appeared in a different variety of journals and reviews throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle and Far East. She has traveled to promote international goodwill through the arts to the Middle East and Asia. For other fruits my father was indifferent.
He'd point at the cherry trees and say,
“See those? I wish they were figs.”
In the evenings he sat by my bed
weaving folktales like vivid little scarves.
They always involved a figtree.
Even when it didn't fit, he'd stick it in.
Once Joha was walking down the read and he saw a figtree.
Or, he tied his camel to a figtree and went to sleep.
Or, later when they caught and arrested him,
his pockets were full of figs.

The father's favorite fruit was the fig. He would use any opportunity to use figs due to the satisfaction they bring the father. They remind him of home and peace. At age six I ate a dried fig and shrugged.
“That's not what I'm talking about!” he said,
“I'm talking about a fig straight from the earth –
gift of Allah! – on a branch so heavy it touches the ground.
I'm talking about picking the largest fattest sweetest fig
in the world and putting it in my mouth.”
(Here he'd stop and close his eyes.)

The father has a more symbolic meaning with the figs than the literal meaning the child thinks of. The figs the father dreams of mean the world to him and having them would be a blessing from God. Years passed, we lived in many houses, none had figtrees.
We had lima beans, zucchini, parsely, beets.
“Plant one!” my mother says, but my father never did.
He tended garden half-heartedly, forgot to water, let the okra get too big.
“What a dreamer he is. Look how many things he starts
and doesn't finish.”

The father didn't want to deal with anything but figs. When his family needed food from a garden, he paid little attention. All he wanted were fig trees to care for. The last time he moved, I got a phone call.
My father, in Arabic, chanting a song I'd never heard.
"What's that?"
"Wait till you see!"

The father was excited and had a surprise for the child,
but didn't want to spoil the surprise. The child was
confused and was anxious to see what it was. He took me out to the new yard.
There, in the middle of Dallas, Texas,
a tree with the largest, fattest, sweetest figs in the world.
"It's a figtree song!" he said,
plucking his fruits like ripe tokens,
emblems, assurance
of a world that was always his own.

The father had finally been able to show the child the real
meaning of his passion for the fig tree. In the sight of the
fig tree, the child was able to understand the beauty of it
and could see the importance and meaning of it to the father.
Full transcript