September 2023

Back to Issue 14

An olive tree in flower

By Isi Unikowski

A B-grade movie drumbeat of doors and panes, 

all night the wind tackles this eyrie  

where I will try to sleep on the sofa-bed that only I have mastered 

beneath photos of great-great grandmothers in sheitels, 

graduations, weddings, and someone who looks like me  

leaning against my first car. 


My hollow-eyed cave-wall reflection presides over 

the empty intersection below. Streetlight touches  

a bag of cherries growing pulpy,  

a newspaper creased at the obituaries, 

the Ezi-Read calendar floating in the darkened kitchen. 

Dishes gleam where Dad sang as he did the washing up, 

motes rising in staves of moonlight as if the melody lingered. 


They waited hopefully all day  

for one of my famous jokes.  But my humours  

bubbled away in solicitude’s alembic,  

all day my tempers hissed and leaked  

like a geothermal zone, bubbles of impatience popping  

as my dogged, dutiful performance was transformed  

into fairy-tale kindness in chats with the neighbours. 


Like albums and dictionaries losing pages as the spines break 

silence laps at the edge of conversations: 

what they mustn’t be told about family crises,  

dispatches from distant wars 

and what must be said, for what lies on the other side of telling: 

the names of villages and cameo players  

coming on like solitary lights across a lake. 


A last look at my e-mails.  My wife has sent me 

a picture of our olive tree. Hardly feted, 

to her delight it has flowered for the first time. 

A smattering of white and green neon bunting, 

nubs askew, like families holding hands in kindergarten paintings.   

Perhaps after fruitless years pot-bound roots found 

a way through to the soil.  Or perhaps  

it was time for some fabled bird, 

down from circling time’s thermals, high and alone,  

to lift its flamboyant green and white tail  

from the garden’s tapestry 

into a momentary renown.