I’m not much of an epithalamion (or epithalamium, if you prefer the Latin) writer, but it was the first thing that occurred to me for this prompt, and dammit, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. (I found out about this fig/wasp thing only a few days ago, probably when I was reading up for the very-similar cicada poem.) Symbiotic relationships that have evolved over millions of years always fascinate me and seem to put our “relationships” in humanity (I use the term loosely as a result) in a poor light. So I figured, Green Partier that I am, it’s Earth Day, I want to write an Earth Day poem for Miz Quickly and NaPoWriMo, I don’t have much time to do it, why not something touching on that conceit? Here, then, are figs, wasps, and wedding vows.
This is a throwaway poem, but I really like the idea behind it. Probably in a month or so, once I’m out of the work-frenzy and production-frenzy, I’ll settle down and write something less clunky to explore the topic.
Epithalamion with Figs
There are certain species of wasp who,
over the course of eighty million years,
have evolved to lay their eggs within figs.
The surrogate wombs close them in dark
with floret cradles, slowly ripening.
Wind comes, rain comes. The sun,
warm in some eons, cool in some others,
stirs them awake. The males mate
and burrow with equal ferocity
like desperate prisoners do, dying content
once they breathe the outside air.
Then the females, weighed down by wings,
scooping fig pollen as they go,
follow their brother-husbands’ tunnels
and take flight. Some will cross worlds
to find a virgin tree, folding back the fruit’s
puckered lip to crawl in, release the young.
How many generations have there been
since they came to this understanding,
the fig and the wasp? To bind together
so many lives– what can two people do
that the nurseries bobbing under
green leaves don’t already make clear?
But of course even the smallest things,
like love, must be cherished.
Split open a fig and see the sleepers
row after row: to know their parable,
to run one thumb over it and be humbled,
is the only vow worth making.