the olive tree

the olive tree given to us after the war
never looked like those of Greek verse
which English poets went looking for.

what sorrows? & how could a tree be
deathless? useful I understood,
to make oil for food, warmth & light.

not until I pruned the lower branches,
the gnarled trunk of the maturing tree
revealed — giving it that classic look

& room enough to sit in the afternoon
under its lacework of silver green,
breathing ten thousand years of memory.

Published in Poetry New Zealand 40, March 2010.