I held the fruit the way I might have held
a feather, turning it to view each side.
I loved the story of the fig wasp,

Agaonidae, how in each fig’s center
was a wingless and silent creature, disintegrated,
eaten. Led by food to become food. This was

when I still felt whole ownership
of myself, before any part of me was undone.
Before I sat in rooms I could only define

by those who’d left them—flightless and rended.
When I eat a fig, it leaves my throat scratchy
and swollen. The body, whether suddenly

or over time, can develop such an aversion,
held in the place where old and new pain meet.

Jim Whiteside is the author of a chapbook, Writing Your Name on the Glass (Bull City Press, 2019), and is a 2019-2021 Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University. A graduate of the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, his poems appear or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, the Southern Review, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, and Boston Review. Originally from Cookeville, Tennessee, he lives in Oakland, California.