Poetry

The gods in my shed

When Apollo says he knows 
whether all the grains of sand in the world 
add up to odd or even, and that he knows too
the measure of the oceans, and the number 
of insects that crawl the Earth, 
and the days of cities and empires, 
or how many waves are curling now
about to break, 
or that he sees each butterfly 
flapping its wings 
and knows where every ripple goes, he is saying 
we do not know 
and that we should revere the knowing 
which is forever beyond us, 
meditate on it daily, pour water on the backs of goats 
if we must, to remind ourselves
what we do not know, and never can. 
That is the function of the gods
I still keep on a shelve in my shed.
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Poetry

Olive pressing

Seventeen years, mostly ignored. Finally, 
we learnt to press the olives from our tree into oil, 
a process which widens out 
into a world of infinite connections: 
				the universe of stars 
and dust. Such that I hardly know how to say what we did. 
Perhaps, like Homer, we’ll discover in writing 
something smarter than ourselves. 			        
						       
							First, we blitzed 
the olives in a food processor, which bounced on the bench, 
rattling and shrill-screaming, as it spun the hard stones 
and oily flesh into a khaki mash 
that smelt divine, 
like the dark loamy earth 
		between the thighs of Papatuanuku. 

Each batch 
we scooped into a large pot and heated, until 
this indelicate mixture began sparkling like morning dew
on a pile of dung. 

						You can thank the sun 
for sending water to the mountains, and for it 
								to fall 
back into our laps, 
though it took men like my grandfather wielding the levers 
to build the dams 
with steel cracked from red earth, combined with gravel 
and cement squeezed from soft grey clay; 
the hill at Portland almost gone. 
		     
						 And all this flows 
to the turning of the press 
made from ageless aluminium, everywhere and nowhere 
in the Earth’s crust, journeying now into space…
								and held tight 
in our hands, to wrench the oily liquid from its fibrous body, 
as alumina is wrenched from bauxite 
using the holding power of alpine lakes. 
		                  		  	
					            	Oil rises to the top, 
best left overnight in a jar that you can dip 
a ladle into and funnel through muslin cloth. 
What’s left behind is an acerbic liquid any gardener 
will deploy with pleasure
to cut off those obstreperous weeds in mid-growth. 

In a ceramic jug the oil will stay peppery to taste; 
a wealth stored, to be drizzled 
on the familial bread, 
		  	 and spilling over 
				    	onto the plate bounded 
by its raised rim.

With the last pieces of bread, 
we soaked up the thin pools of golden oil 
and licked our glistening fingers—
like shining Gods we are, for a moment.
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