The impossibility of religious faith has been a theme in the work of Edward Hirsch over the years; yet in the presence of doubt, in the experience of yearning, in encountering a small yield of sweetness, he finds something perhaps equivalent, or faith enough. “Green Figs” seems appropriate reading for Good Friday as well as the first seder of Passover tonight.
I want to live like that little fig tree
that sprouted up at the beach last spring
and spread its leaves over the sandy rock.
All summer its stubborn green fruit
(tiny flowers covered with a soft skin)
ripened and grew in the bright salt spray.
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good
and Evil was a fig tree, or so it is said,
but this wild figure was a wanton stray.
I need to live like that crooked tree—
solitary, bittersweet, and utterly free—
that knelt down in the hardest winds
but could not be blasted away.
It kept its eye on the far horizon
and brought honey out of the rock.
Excerpt from THE LIVING FIRE: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS © 2010 by Edward Hirsch. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.