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
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)