Olive Trees - By Marjorie Block

Heavy wooden shutters stand open. 

Warm air and July sun stream into the room 

of the convent, my refuge for three weeks. 


At the window I inhale the unfamiliar 

countryside of Umbria: the scent of ripe fruit and earth 

the row after row of olive trees rooted in dry and stony soil. 


How I welcome the strangeness -- 

to be unknown 

unavailable for condolence. 


On one tier an old woman wearing a long black robe appears. 

Like one of the hags of fate. As ancient as this sanctuary. 

She moves slowly, dragging a thick black hose 

up the side of a hill and around the demented beauty of each tree-- 

bent and gnarled as her own body bent by pain or prayer. 


A presence about her touches me in a way I need it to. 

She turns slowly and looks up at my window. 

I raise my hand. 

She lifts the hose. 

Acknowledging loss so new 

I barely know its name. 

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