by Brian Doyle
Once upon a time I was at dinner with a lean priest named Michael.
This was on a long muscle of soil called Hunters Hill by the harbor.
There was a Catholic school nearby in a sprawling field and around
The field were Mark and John and Paul and James and Mary streets.
What, no Luke and Matthew? I asked. He grinned. Jupiter and Mars
Streets are south a bit, he said. We like to cover all the bases, as you
Say in your country. And aptly our broadest street here is Augustine.
Wondrous lesson, that man, but he has been imprisoned by theology.
Grant me chastity but not yet, everyone knows that hilarious remark,
But we perhaps do not remember that he was African, and had a son,
And a steady girlfriend for many years before his epiphanic moment,
Which occurred under a fig tree not unlike, perhaps, one of our trees.
You will remember that Guatama also achieved light under a fig tree.
So one lesson we could draw for the church today would be more fig
Trees on general principles, a fig being perhaps the very tree of Eden.
The Prophet Mohammed, God bless him and grant him peace, dearly
Loved figs, and they are mentioned everywhere in his Book and ours.
Now, we might draw the lesson from Augustine that all bishops must
Have a child and a steady girlfriend as a first education in God’s love,
But that is…unlikely, in my lifetime and probably yours, so I suggest
We begin with figs, which would not only foment epiphany, but offer
Meanwhile a most delicious fruit. Should we ask for a plate of them?
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine in Oregon, and the author of many books, most recently the novels Chicago and Martin Marten.