For Beth Fleenor
That fig tree attracts wasps. They get wobbly
in the heady fermented fruit
flying lazily on the summer wind
like some Sinatra party guest after martinis.
Masts clang down the hill in the harbor.
Another siren calls while the dusk wraps its ethered scarf
around the neighborhood and the raccoon,
in his nocturnal wonder, takes one look at the tree
to see his paradise, his destiny, like a moth
sees his paramour flame, he knows
he will reach supreme love
from the bright fig at the crown
now illuminated by the moon. The limbs
are as soft as quartz, scratching easily
as he climbs up & up & up.
Drawn out is this moment of reaching—
the way he scampers on the thin branches for footing,
stretching towards splendor, there it is: a purple sack,
a Lilliputian’s laundry bag. He touches as high
as he can without falling. And then he does
manage to clip the fruit with his paw
joyously dropping into his mouth, the wet
and juicy center. A smile perhaps
and laughter at the bulging size of the fig
which in one second slides down his throat
but gets stuck. And there is our raccoon—
on tip-toes in the moonlight at the height of his happiness
in the tree choking. After that there is a fall,
followed by the brief silence of being airborne
before landing at the crux of two crossed branches
that bounce of the sudden glottal stop. Uh-oh.
Everyone is gone from the house to have heard
the accident, but in the morning they find him
strange fruit hanging from the Mediterranean tree.
And so he is plucked (apprehensively)
his soft furry body like a forgotten gym bag
stuffed with stinky socks. He is processioned in a bizarre majesty
down the street on the shovel used to dig his grave.
Now he rests in the old apple orchard
of the abandoned house (half burned out in decay)
there beneath the one oak tree covered
in ivy vines that in a few years from now
will have a small fig tree in its shadow
that started from the seed
in the raccoon’s belly.
Monica Schley earned a BA from UW-Eau Claire (in her native Wisconsin) where she studied poetry and harp. As a poet, her work has appeared in Burnside Review; Cranky; Cream City Review; Crab Creek Review; KNOCK and other journals. Her chapbook Black Eden: Nocturnes (Pudding House Press) was published in 2009 and also doubles as a performance piece with dance/spoken word/music. As a musician, she has worked with some of the Northwest’s mostly highly respected composers and performers including: Jim Knapp; Eyvand Kang; Jherek Bischoff; Lori Goldston; Jesse Sykes; Damien Jurado and many others. She is currently working on recording an album of her own music and poetry and being a new mother. Concert calendar can be found at: www.monicaschley.com