The Olive: Poetry

By Harlow Soderborg Clark


This Tree is light to the world.

The fruit of its fruit light to the mind

Fire to the lamp, calm to troubled waters.

The fruit bears its fruit by being crushed:

Salt well in a stone box

Add purgatives—vinegar is good

Let sit.

Crush between two grinding stones driven by a mule

Kissed by a whip

Till the skins break

Repeat to the lees, then burn the mash on a torch.

If the oil enlightens your soul

You will see the beaten traveller

There, by the side of the road, as you head down to Jericho

Pour it on his broken skin.


This man, light of endless worlds,

Praying near the trunk

Feels the branches enfolding him,

Folding him in—kneading, pressing

Till the skin breaks and it is not oil

Which will spill on ground that will shake tomorrow

Like waves tossing the boat

His nearby friends dream they are sleeping in—unaware

A friend will whip him with a kiss

Enemies whip nails through his palms and wrists

And spear him up a sponge of vinegar through his ribs.


After the healing has all flowed out

Layer him in linen

Salt him away in a stone room

Post sentinels to guard the rock that guards the room

That guards the shroud that keeps the dead

Dead—till the earth rolls the death stone like a boat

Tossed in stormy dreams and the empty cloths fold themselves

And Mary hears her name spoken

Not by the gardner.


But first, now, the tree draws him closer, tighter

Glowing in the approaching torchlight

As if dripping oil.


(Originally published in Wilderness Interface Zone)