The Olive by Harlow 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
Let sit.
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.

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To read Harlow’s bio and other entry, go here.

*Competition entry*

Gatekeeper of Spring by Harlow Clark

Vor dem Gesetz steht ein Türhüter
–Franz Kafka

K. is the gatekeeper to spring
Marching me through February.
Vacuuming the chapel and halls I listen
To K cleaning the schoolhouse
Trying to make a home there
Waiting to be called up.

Biking town to town and street to street
I hear the mazes of Amerika
The gatekeeper before the gatekeeper before the gatekeeper
Before the law, vor dem Gesetz,
Knife passing from hand to hand
Before the final plunge and twist.

Hearing twenty-one hours I found myself back
In Brent Chambers’ German 3 class at Provo High.
“Time for a donut run,” Herr Chambers said,
“Take my car.”
“It’s just across the street.”
He threw me his keys anyway.

The parking lot became a steep climb
Till I saw the rollercoaster cars
Coming straight for me.
A movie cliché rescued me
As I jammed the car in reverse
And roared backwards down the tracks
Just ahead of the coaster.

Back on the ground
The parking lot gatekeeper stopped me.
“No leaving the grounds during school hours.”
“I’m coming right back.”
“No leaving.”
“I’m not even a student here,
Just come for a visit.”
“We’ll see about that.”

I defeat the gatekeeper by waking up–
Down the hall, down the stairs, back up the hall
To the bathroom.
Stepping through the curtain at the foot of the stairs
I glance across the family room.

Outside the sliding glass door
A tall brown head
Cylindrical like a Tiki god carved from a coconut log.

I step forward to examine the texture of the bark.
The head turns to me,
I see the body sitting at the edge of the lawn
I back away, knowing when I bring back camera the deer will be gone.

For a year I mull this scene
Till one Saturday night
My friend e-mails an invite to celebrate
Spring with a poem for her blog–
Ends Monday.

The next day in Sunday School as King Benjamin teaches Atonement
I remember today is Orthodox Easter.
K. Chi. Chi Rho. Chi Rose.
Like a medieval deer he bounded
Over the gatekeepers,
And the gatekeepers of gatekeepers of gatekeepers.
No gatekeeper,
No twist of nine inch nails,
No stone coasting down a roller before a garden tomb
Could keep him from springing the gates of death.

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Harlow Clark pedals to work down what was a 2-lane country road when he moved to Pleasant Grove, Utah 18 years ago. Since the I-15 interchange went in Sam White Lane (Sam White’s) has been bisected by Pleasant Grove Blvd and partly rerouted. Just before the lane goes over the freeway there used to be a veterinary practice. In an interview for a news story the vet told Harlow he could gauge the transformation of north Utah County from rural to urban by the disappearance of large animals from his patients. Harlow traces the transformation by the disappearance of the home and veterinary hospital and the appearance of a two-story office building (though by New York City standards the whole state is rural). He became aware awhile back that he has written several poems featuring animals, and is working them into a chapbook called Dinosaur Water.

*Competition entry*

When the Rains Come–Quatrain by Lou Davies James

When the rains come I tilt my face,
Letting life soak me to the skin
With welcome to each drop that falls,
Sliding soft like tears to chin

Regarding each as hours spent
When the rains come I tilt my face,
A mingling of joy and tears,
Of paths that led me to this place

Where Sorrow hand in hand resides
With Gladness as she brightly sings.
When the rains come I tilt my face
Toward each gift that living brings.

I will not turn away again
But meet each dawn with truth and grace,
Accepting all that life bestows.
When the rains come–I tilt my face.

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To read Lou’s other entries to the Spring Runoff, go here and here.

*Competition entry*

Catching Bliss by Lou Davies James

Sunlight spills and pools on
my grandmother’s patchwork quilt
through the thin, embroidered
curtains in my room.

I step into the day…
opening doors and windows,
drawing in the morning air
cool off the ocean,
feeding cats and kittens on the deck,

squeezing juice and sipping as I write
what spills and flows,
feeling it come, letting it go,
lulled by errant phrasing as I stir

dusky berries into batter,
fresh cut lemon stinging
winter-weary splits on my thumb,
singing Joni Mitchell…

as I wash the spoons and bowls
and smell the muffins rising in the heat…

sweet days and dreaming,
bliss measured in moments,
fleeting in the light that pours
through my open windows.

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To read Lou’s bio and other Spring Runoff Entry, go here.

*Competition entry*