Poem – Andrew Wood

Karl Wolfskehl
(1869-1948)

The first olive tree in Auckland
was hidden like a seed’s germ in the heart of a
German Jew,
a refugee, and exile.
The olive tree is there in the face,
the lumpish nose, the plow
lines around the eyes, anchored
to the mud of the furthest archipelago.

The drab leaves drink in the Mediterranean
sunlight
in Auckland, and the roots
still in Auckland
stab deep to black blood old as Charlemagne
all the way to Jerusalem and Egypt
and the inconsolable grief of ploughed-up olive
groves,
scorched, upturned and sown with salt –
all of this is packed into the ancient wood grain.

But German songbirds still manage to chorus in
the branches
of this Auckland olive tree,
and every leaf twisting in the breeze from the
azure harbour
is a wink.
But all that most people perceive is an old, bent
olive tree,
hunched over, senescent,
perhaps even a little suspect, malevolent,
a blind German Jew burdened with too much
culture –

thus the still, small voice of the golden kowhai
instead
of the brazen shofar that rocked the walls of
Jericho.

 

Andrew Wood

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