Temptations in the Desert by Steven L. Peck

Was that deceiver so lacking
in diabolical imagination that
he appeared loudly, graceless in
full-figured form?
No.
I think not.
Rather he brought to mind sweet
cool Spring mornings, mother’s bread
baking thick and moist. Its smell
tickling every corner, happily.
Broken, pulled apart, steam dancing
upward from two hot halves. Honey losing
viscosity as bread and sweetness meet.

“Surely it would be no crime,”
he whispered,
“Take these rocks, you
made them anyway, and
change them,
(Swiftly!)
to that bread.
Command these bees:
`Bring honey my friends
for this fast of mine is over.’
The Son of God must have his strength
for the mission ahead. Surely
you deserve this.”

But rising, the Master
smiled at his memories, brushed the
dust from his robe. And walked homeward
over the rocks
tired and hungry.

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Steve Peck is an ecologist at Brigham Young University. His novel, The Scholar of Moab, by Torrey House Press was awarded the Association of Mormon Letters award for best novel of 2011. Other creative works include a novel: The Gift of the King’s Jeweler (2003 Covenant Communications) and a  novella A Short Stay in Hell was recently published by Strange Violins Editions. He has published numerous short stories and his poetry as appeared in Dialogue, Bellowing Ark, BYU Studies, Irreantum, Red Rock Review, Glyphs III, Pedestal Magazine, Tales of the Talisman (nominated for the Rhysling Award), Victorian Violet, and a chapbook of poetry published by the American Tolkien Society called Flyfishing in Middle Earth.  Steve blogs at bycommonconsent.com and has a faith/science blog called The Mormon Organon.

*Non-competition submission*

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*