Lily Lyu: “Obituary of a Fig Wasp”
Jack Grapes Poetry Prize 2019 Winner
2019 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Winner selected by judge Tanya Ko Hong
It was truly a pleasure and privilege to read this poem! I read it again and again, and it’s still surprising me with layers of new depth and emotion with each reading. That’s the beauty of this poem: it’s like a peeling an onion, but with joyful tears. This poem is a great example of “show, don’t tell.” It uses perfectly placed juxtapositions and poetic language(s) to describe complex emotions, while never telling readers how to feel. The poet’s use of space on the page gives readers pause to experience each image and syllable. There’s both breath and deep breathing, which usher in multiple surprises w/o a hint. The writer creates a brilliant setting at the beginning of the poem, as well as at the end.
” …the fig digest
the dead wasps as it ripens
ashes to ashes, dusts to dust, fig to fig”
I will never taste figs without thinking about this poem.
— Tanya Ko Hong
Obituary of a Fig Wasp
—“A fig wasp’s life begins and ends in a fig; each fig ripens only after a wasp dies inside. The tree’s fruit ripen only after its flowers are pollinated by wasps, while the wasps tear their wings and antennae squeezing into the fig to lay their eggs.”
I digest you,
You complete me
Without a fig wasp,
I could never ripen
into juicy soulfulness
Mother, you were born
Inside me, female wasp hatching
Crawling out to lay eggs in the figs.
Pollinating deep within my purple flesh
I am a fig with no flowers.
You bought me a one-way ticket to heaven
To the life you once described
but one that you’d never arrive in
Your nutrients intoxicate
Deep Inside me,
The one time you told me to
Lay down my guard
cuz you knew what was best for me
and that’s the only thing you’d ever want
Mother, I miss my friends
I yearn for a lost life and the pollens scattered
In six different cities where I was lost, never found
Shipped off, labelled with a flimsy barcode
Pieces of you scatter in my soul
Locked in my windpipe
But the fig digests
the dead wasps as it ripens
ashes to ashes, dust to dust, fig to fig.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leyi (Lily) Lyu is a 17-year-old Chinese amateur poet currently studying at United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She has been on the move every 2 or 3 years to a different country due to family circumstances. Since a very early age, Lily has read widely and let her mind be the wanderess guiding her writing. She particularly enjoyed her experience learning about Poetry & Identity while attending the Telluride Association Summer Program. She believes that poetry is an important means for expressing the raw impacts of change upon one’s circumstances under a diasporic framework. One day, she hopes to graduate with a Political Science degree and leave the world in a slightly better place than she found it.