My Father Eats Figs
    Ruth Knafo Setton
My father eats figs
the way he eats his past,
spits out the skin.

He eats figs and stares
out the window at Mrs. Grimm's
curtains: she knows

our secret, how we emerged
from the jungle. She watches me
with green eyes and razor lips.

Witch, djinn, she eats children
and buries their bones
in her backyard--I've been there.

My father eats figs
the way he and his father
ate eggs on the farm

of the other world:
boiled in their shells--
peeled and swallowed

whole, devouring a hundred
at a time. He eats figs, watches
my sister and me, white tulle

and ballet shoes, arms raised,
as we pirouette
on broken pavement.

Mom mans the record player.
Neighbors watch.
Dancing dolls with painted

cheeks, swaying like the palms
we've already forgotten.
The phone rings--Dad runs inside.

We dance and dance,
and it's years
before we see him again.

Ruth Knafo Setton's novel, THE ROAD TO FEZ, was recently published by Counterpoint Press. The recipient of fellowships and awards from the NEA, PEN, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she is the Writer-in-Residence for the Berman Center for Jewish Studies at Lehigh University. Her poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies. For her interpretation of Celan's work, she used the Heather McHugh and Nicolai Popov translation, GLOTTAL STOP: 101 POEMS BY PAUL CELAN (Wesleyan Poetry: University Press of New England, 2000).

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