Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2019

Olives

Olives

Photograph via Flickr by Uzi Yachin

From yesterday’s Daily Item:
“Israeli workers with chain saws
cut down a Palestinian farmer’s olive grove
to make way for the West Bank security
barrier.” The wrecking crew replants
some of the one hundred and eighty
stumps on another plot;
the trees have little or no chance
of surviving the dry season.

How long has it taken
to grow one hundred and eighty
olive trees in the desert?

In front of the Erechtheon
on the Acropolis, one olive tree stands
– in the spot, we’re told,
where Athena’s gift
to the city, her olive,
sprang up.

I see those one hundred
and eighty trees softening a hillside,
muted green, gray, the subtle shades
of their bark, their gnarled forms,
their fallen leaves pale commas
on the text of dry earth.
I smell the fragrance
pressed from their fruit.

Athena’s gift was her offering
in the contest with Poseidon
over which god’s name the city would bear,
her olive tree countering his well.
For all the reasons to choose
water, Athens chose peace,
a flowering
beyond necessity.