Fall 2010 • Vol. XXXII No. 4 Poetry |

Ficus Carica

At first we built canopies out of foliage. We imitated swallows' nests, using wattles and clay. When we gathered together in one place We called ourselves citizens. Diospolis, city of God, came first. Figs grew plentifully at the roadsides, They sprouted between the stones of the marketplace. Some called the pyramids an idle display of wealth But if what Diodorus said is true, That tombs are eternal homes, Then our homes are merely roadhouses. Life in the forest ended badly. Loneliness, irreparable physical harm. Diospolis is a ruin, though scholars debate exactly where. Here, before the night of the first frost, We sever the roots on one side of our fig trees, Then dig a trench on the other, not deep, No longer than the figs are high. After bending the trunks We bury them under dirt and leaves, We cover the mounds with straw. Nights aren't colder where we live, They're longer; spring comes late. On good years snow falls steadily. It covers our houses, night cove

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James Longenbach’s fourth collection of poems, The Iron Key, was published by Norton in the fall of 2010. He is the Joseph Gilmore Professor of English at the University of Rochester and the author, most recently, of The Art of the Poetic Line (Graywolf, 2008).

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