the truth about figs

Each ripe fig has at its heart a devoured wasp:

a solitary female, to pollinate

the fruit's inverted blossom; she crawls in

at the meeting of the bracts, the ostiole:

a hole so small it rips her antennae,

splits the tectonic opacity

of skeletal wings; sky-bereft and undone,

she nonetheless tends the fig's dark garden,

its minute inflorescence – strokes stigma,

seeds stamen, tucks her eggs into the styles

of ovule florets – and settles into death:

the enzymatic gall of her own deflowering.


Sink your tongue into the burst of purple skin;

mouthful of fleshy sweetness, born of a sting.


Listen to Angela read the poem.


’It would be easy to draw a direct (and obvious) likeness between this poem and a fig; it’s true that both are compact, neat, beautiful, packed full of tiny details, and far more complex inside than is belied by the exterior. But ‘The Truth About Figs’ is much more than that – it makes stunning truth of a fiction, as all great poems should, and not a word is wasted. The wasp at the centre of the fruit serves as the ultimate symbol of sacrifice, undoing and transformation – a journey that takes a mere 14 lines.’
— Andrew McMillan and Rebecca Perry, The London Magazine Poetry Prize 2016