Tuesday, 27 October 2015

To Kill An Olive - Mark O'Connor

Nobody knows how long it takes to kill an olive.
Drought, axe, fire, are admitted failures. Hack one down,
grub out a ton of mainroot for fuel, and next spring
every side-root sends up shoots. A great frost
can leave the trees leafless for years; they revive.
Invading armies will fell them. They return
through the burnt-out ribs of siege machines.

Only the patient goat, nibbling his way down the ages,
has malice to master the olive. Sometimes, they say,
a man finds a dead orchard, fired and goat-
cropped centuries back. He settles and fences;
the stumps revive. His grandchildren's family prosper
by the arduous oil-pressing trade. Then wars
and disease wash over. Goats return. The olives
go under, waiting another age.

Their shade still lies where Socrates disputed.
Gethsemane's withered groves are bearing yet.

Mark O'Connor (born 1945) Australia

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