Monday, April 20, 2009

The Tattooed Poets Project, Day 20: Moira Egan

Today's poem comes to us from Moira Egan, the "European Correspondent" on the Best American Poetry blog. A hearty thank you to Stacey Harwood at the BAP blog, who helped me with the formatting of the poem!

Moira explains:

This poem comes from a series called Strange Botany that I wrote last year. The poems are written in syllabics (somewhat after Marinane Moore, one of my poetry heroes) and each poem takes as its title the Latin botanical name of the plant that acts as its central metaphor.

* * *

Ficus carica

In this country

it’s a tradition

to make a wish upon

the first bite

of the season’s fruit,

the first peach, cherry, nectarine,

cachi, so as I peel this

first fig, slowly pull its skin away

like a mammalian membrane,

I make the wish

that each of our

days might have some of

that taste of reunion

after long

absence, the salty-

sweet homecoming kiss, the airport

embarrassment of laughing

and crying both into each other’s

shirts. And it seems to me the fig

is the perfect


of all the above,

the fruit of yin and yang,


in shape, yet deeply

feminine in its opening;

how, on the one hand, it was

a tree like this under which Buddha

sat and found enlightenment, while

on the other,

these were the leaves

that Adam reached for

to clothe their humanness

when they saw

that they were naked

and learned of shame. How many fruits

acquire their musky sweetness

from the strange symbiosis of wasp

and worm? I don’t know, but I think

of the first figs

of that summer

when we met, how he

carefully peeled the fruit,

offered me

the sweet and strangely

tentacular flesh, almost too

ripe but not quite, and he kissed me

and church bells clamored out the Angelus

and he kissed me again and (yes)

I made a wish.

(The English version first appeared in The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Winter 2008)

* * *

Ficus carica

In questo paese

è tradizione

esprimere un desiderio

al primo assaggio

di un frutto di stagione,

la prima pesca, ciliegia, albicocca,

il primo caco, così sbuccio

il primo fico, ne stacco adagio la pelle

come membrana di mammifero,

esprimo il desiderio

che ognuno dei nostri

giorni possa avere un po’

del sapore di ri-unione

dopo lunga

assenza, il dolce-salato

bacio del ritorno a casa, l’imbarazzo

all’aeroporto di ridere

e piangere entrambi sulla camicia

dell’altro. E a me il fico pare

la perfetta


di quelle manifestazioni,

il frutto di yin e yang,


nella forma, ma profondamente

femminile nel suo aprirsi;

e poi, da un lato, è stato

sotto un albero del genere che Buddha

si è seduto e ha ricevuto l’Illuminazione,


le sue sono le foglie

cui Adamo tese la mano per

nascondere la natura umana

quando videro

che erano nudi

e conobbero vergogna. Quanti frutti

acquisiscono la loro dolcezza muscosa

dalla simbiosi arcana di vespa

e verme? Io non lo so, ma penso

ai primi fichi

di quell’estate

che ci incontrammo, alla

premura con cui sbucciò il frutto,

me ne offerse

la carne, dolce e inusitatamente

tentacolare, quasi troppo

matura, ma non proprio, e mentre

mi baciava le campane esplosero nell’Angelus

e ancora mi baciava e (sì)

espressi un desiderio.

Translated by Damiano Abeni

(The Italian version is forthcoming in an anthology entitled Poesie per anime gemelle, Newton Compton Editori, Rome, 2009)

Moira Egan lives in Rome with her husband, Damiano Abeni, who is a translator of American poetry into Italian. Their most recent collaboration is La Seta della Cravatta/The Silk of the Tie, a bi-lingual collection of Moira’s poems with Italian versions by Damiano. It is so hot off the press that it’s not even up on the publisher’s website (though keep trying; it will be there any day now!) If you’re interested in getting a copy, feel free to email Moira at and/or check it out on her website

Previously, Moira and Damiano also collaborated on Un mondo che non può essere migliore: Poesie scelte 1956-2007, a substantial selection of the poems of John Ashbery (Sossella Editore, 2008) which can be found here:

When she is not translating or writing poems, Moira teaches poetry workshops here, there, and online. She is also thrilled to check in occasionally as the “European Correspondent” on the Best American Poetry Blog.

Please check out Moira's tattoo over on Tattoosday here.

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