Ode to an Olive

Ode to an Olive

Apostolis missed
his dearly departed wife.
Only the olive grove was a comfort now.

Ferocious are the winds of fate

Not so many years ago,
Apostolis and his wife cried
for a young Mother they never met, and
wept that day in sorrow and joy, wished
she could have seen the olives grow

Her babies were left
under an olive tree, abandoned
in the dawn that day when
the mother’s joy never rose
in the blackness of her shame

Ferocious are the winds of fate,
odd weather like a ferret at the door

Rumors told Apostolis
who the father was. But
ne’er a word to confront him
though he saw that weasel
at a fair once.

The babies grew, and
walked in the shade, had
silly escapades, laughed at
pressing matters
under the olive trees.

Apostolis told them
babies come from
olive trees

Odd weather is fate
like a weasel in politics

He had loved his olive trees
and the first pressings of optimists
politicians managing arguments
like ancient Sophists
cash-starved, and secretly
worried about drachma quakes
on some sneaky Friday night.
A cousin had the worry beads
and a drink of tsipouro for luck.

No worry: there’d be
a midnight train to Athens
50,000 euros to play against doom,
pay for a pressing matter

His daughters were
extra virgin fans —
served the traditional
with local spice and flare

But they were desperate
to leave him, the ancient one
and his columns of numbers
and of olive trees, because
they’d been to the Oracle
and were terrified by the words:
“When your father is slain
in the name of family, you
will find gold but not on Crete…”, so
they professed and protested
too much love for the old man
who wasn’t very old at all.

Ferocious are the winds of fate,
odd weather like a ferret at the door

He’d asked them to read Sophocles
but they were going on scholarship
to new worlds before
the Romans became afraid.
Chloë went to finance in New York,
Clytemnestra to new Athens.

This time he didn’t know
who the hordes would be

His family home seemed safe
the philosophers told him,
ha and he was the original alpha

But his daughters grew
wild parties, wild plans

Whirlwinds twist souls,
plans fated in the wind

This time he didn’t know
who the hordes would be, saw
follies and corruption
crushing austerity, but
Clytemnestra married the mayor
though he had had six previous wives.

She said, “Daddy
don’t worry
politics is new, and
Theseus is a clever man
with business connections.”

Ferocious are the winds of fate,
odd weather like a ferret at the door

Apostolis missed
his dearly departed wife.

Chloë wanted to build
a luxury resort in the olive grove
for rich Europeans or Americans,
said, “Daddy, finance is modern.”

Ancient are the winds of fate,
ferocious like a ferret at the door

Freaky weather systems on the news:
hot fronts like the flush faces of
ECB bankers hearing “Drachma”,
cold fronts like frigid pale faces
drained of blood by Dracula who
might run wild through Brussels

But Apostolis wasn’t worried —
had many Euros in his local bank,
but then again…

A clash of fronts approached,
very rare thunderstorms
and an epsilon on the wall

They said, once in 500 years
for such weather conditions
and the olive grove looked fragile.

Storms on his mind, Apostolis’s
eyes rained on thoughts of his young daughter
the image of a young Mother he never met, and
he wept that day in sorrow and worry, wished
she could have seen the olives grow more

Clytemnestra called,
“Daddy, don’t worry
I’m coming home
with my husband Theseus.
I love him more than you’ll ever know
and he is such a clever man.”

Odd weather is fate
like a weasel in politics

Chloë called,
“Daddy, don’t worry:
I’m flying home
to set the finances”

When the epsilon is
on the wall, prophets say,
a ferocious loan is like a wolf:
it will eat all your sheep

A peak of sun and Apostolis missed
the golden hair of his departed wife,
and he heard rare thunder while
he waited near a rare and
golden-tipped olive tree.

“Daddy, daddy,” yelled Clytemnestra,
as she approached from afar with a man,
but she stopped in her tracks at a shrub.

“Clytemnestra!” said Chloë
stumbling out of a car. And
the sisters hugged from afar.

Ancient are the winds of fate,
ferocious like a monster at the door

Apostolis missed them and
lifted his arms to the wind,
“Darlings of the olive grove,
run here before the storm!”

The girls ran to him,
Clytemnestra with her husband.

Apostolis struck him down
with the thunder clap of his fist.
“Fiend, fiend. Monster!
I will get my gun.” And
he ran toward the house
as the rain poured down.

The girls ran and screamed,
“What? What?”

“Fiend, fiend. That creature
is your Father.”

Clytemnestra sobbed
didn’t know which way to run
didn’t know who she was
who she knew
who she loved

Chloë said,
“Oh God, oh God, oh God,”
though she was an atheist.

Storm clouds gathered
as if nothing mattered.

Theseus hid under a tree
though it wasn’t much cover
and a foolish place in a thunder storm.
He didn’t know who he was
who he loved, who he should love
and he was afraid of hell, and bargains
he had made in a lust for power.

“Theseus,” said Clytemnestra
as a funnel cloud approached,
“do you love me more than…”
But she could not gasp a finish.

Apostolis shot him dead
under an olive tree
as if nothing mattered.

“Daddy, daddy, daddy,”
the sisters said.

Who can one love
when one’s only Mother is dead
and she has never known one truly

Apostolis said,
“Oh my darlings of the olive grove
I truly love you as much as your Mother
and your Mother and every godly Mother
and every god of nature, and as much
as every leaf I have seen you play under.
Oh thunder, oh sorrow, oh tears,
I love my dears more than ever…”

A tornado ripped the roof off the house
and an olive press flew through the air.

Apostolis missed
his dearly departed wife.
Only the olive grove was a comfort now.

As the sun rose
they rested under
a golden-tipped olive tree.

Ancient are the winds of fate,
ferocious like a monster at the door

But like a feathered tornado
something flew out of a tree

There came a monster
with the body of an eagle
and the head of a bull.

It said as confident as a banker,
“You’ve killed my patron Theseus.”

“Daddy, daddy, daddy,”
Clytemnestra said.

Chloë said,
“This is impossible.
Let’s all run from
this mutant fowl, or
Daddy shoot it — it’ll
be good cooked
in olive oil.”

Apostolis gasped,
“What do you want?”

The jowl of the bull replied,
“I was promised a 7th maiden, and
it is my due.”

Chloë shouted,
“Daddy, it’s delusion —
shoot it, shoot it, shoot it…”

“Take care of the girls,
your Mothers said to me
under the olive trees,”
Apostolis said to them.

When the epsilon is
on the wall, prophets say,
a ferocious loan is like a wolf:
it will eat all your sheep

Chloë shouted,
“Daddy, it’s delusion —
shoot it, shoot it, shoot it…”

The Monster cooly replied,
“So what is my compensation?”

Apostolis said, “Take me
and I will help you.”

The monster grabbed Apostolis
by his shoulders with its talons
and said as if nothing mattered,
“Onward to Spain —
many Euros to go…”
and it flew away.

Ancient are the winds of fate,
let the matadors prepare.

Chloë said,
“Oh my God, if this
be delusion it must be fate.”

“You have gone mad and
silly like a raving raven,
dark in sorrow, crowing
about lunacy and fate,”
said Clytemnestra. “You,
my sister, are no comfort
and my husband is dead.”

“Well,” said Chloë
“it worked out pretty well —
the olive grove is gold…,
and shouldn’t we go
to the bank today?”

“Ha, you fool,” said Clytemnestra,
“you sophisticate in finance: the
banks are closed for the emergency,
for a month all accounts are frozen…”

“Oh hell, oh Drachma,”
said Chloë.

But they loved olives dearly.

— Douglas Gilbert


10 thoughts on “Ode to an Olive

  1. It turned out great, very sad and tragic but wonderfully written. I like the ‘raving raven’. And the monster with the body of a bird and head of a bull? I doubt i’d want to do battle with it, i’ve never heard of anything like that before. Maybe Apostolis will be ok after he helps it? At least they had olives to love, nice ending.

  2. Thanks very much. I was including elements of Greek mythology (except the Minotaur had the head of a bull and the body of a man), allusions to Sophocles (Oedipus Rex). But anyway i used it sparsely so I don’t know if it worked that well. I did the italics thing because I vaguely had heard something about a “Greek chorus” that was used in ancient plays. But afterwards when I looked it up, it wasn’t at all what I thought it was… but anyway, what I used it for was OK I guess. I don’t know, it’s kind of dilute and pale… doesn’t really say much. I don’t know, maybe it’s enough. I suppose if I tried to fix it, it would be ten times longer and then still might not work right. Maybe I can just leave it and come back to it next year…. maybe someday write a play (not likely). I’m stumbling around. I don’t know how to do these things. Seems like too much narration. Well, at least it’s done. I wasn’t going to finish it. Yeah, it dragged on like the Alice thing that took forever to finish. Maybe next time an outline first would be better….

    1. I didn’t know anything about the Greek chorus (prior to you telling me about it) but i liked the way the the italics worked and i think it was in my other comment that i said they seemed musical, so i think it worked perfectly. I don’t think it’s dilute and pale, i think it’s exciting and adventurous but sometimes i guess writers will have different expectations than the readers because they have an idea of something else they intended when they began their work. If you feel like adding more to it in the future i’m sure it will still be great though. I’ve never written a poem this long, i bet it’s a lot of work with the editing. It’d probably take me a whole month to finish something like this. I deleted my last poem. I’m so choked up on words half the time that i can’t even finish or fix my short little poems and when one does happen to squeak through the cracks of my mind it ends up living in a drafts folder never to see the light of a dandegirl page…

      1. Thanks very much. Well, then, I guess it depends on the audience. If it’s written for me and those imaginary people out there, then I didn’t do so well. But if I wrote it for you then, I guess, I did it very well because you enjoyed it and I’m happy for that. OK, let’s see, I’ve written one for you, and now I have just a million more to write for those other people. I wonder if it would help to put their names on it… OK, sorry, I’m not sure if this is humorous or not. So anyway, thanks for the compliments. I always enjoy your comments.

    2. giggling…
      Not that my opinion really matters in the grand scheme of things i suppose…but for what it’s worth, i’ve always thought all your writing is brilliant.

      1. Thanks very much. I haven’t developed the grand scheme yet, but in the meantime you’ve kept me going with all your encouragement. Thanks.

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