Figs, A Delicious and Beneficial Fruit…And a Poem!

Growing up in Brooklyn, we had a fig tree in our backyard that our Italian neighbor planted for us. He was meticulous in his planting and in wrapping the fig tree well to protect in during the winter months. His name was Joe and Joe was best friends with my dad. They’d sit on the bench in front of the house and just shoot the breeze. I miss having a fig tree. Just a few days ago, our neighbor, knowing my love for figs, brought over a plateful which I managed to eat up very quickly. Our neighbor has told us to just tear off a branch or 2 and plant it, so, before our son leaves for India, that’s what I am going to have him do. If you research figs, you will read how healthy they are for our digestive system and other systems as well!!!!  I searched for a poem containing “fig” and found this wonderful work by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poet that I would use in my classroom. “Naomi Shihab Nye was born on March 12, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to a Palestinian father and an American mother. During her high school years, she lived in Ramallah in Palestine, the Old City in Jerusalem, and San Antonio, Texas, where she later received her B.A. in English and world religions from Trinity University.”

My Father and the Figtree by Naomi Shihab Nye


For other fruits my father was indifferent.

He’d point at the cherry tree 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 road 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.


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 figtree 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.)


Years passed, we lived in many houses, none had figtrees.

We had lima beans, zucchini, parsley, beets.

“Plant one!” my mother said, but my father never did.

He tended the 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 last time he moved, I got a phone call.

My father, in Arabic, chanting a song I’d never heard.

“What’s that?” I said.

“Wait till you see!”


He took me out back 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.














3 thoughts on “Figs, A Delicious and Beneficial Fruit…And a Poem!

  1. How lovely that you featured that poem by Naomi Shihab Nye – one of my favorite poets. Fig trees and olive trees have a sacred place in Palestinian culture, where being sustained by the local foods is at the heart of life. I’m glad you found my own rumination about figs!

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