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Trees as twisted as history
With seemingly nothing but dust
And rock to subsist on
Put out their straight, fresh greenery.

They might have been old already
When peerless limbs of the ladies
Loved in all centuries,
Those of the godly sisterhood

No worker could have carved so clear,
Of Artemis, of Aphrodite,
Slipped off the shade that flows
On roots gone down like stone in stone

And stepped into their proper light,
Whether of moonbeam or sunray,
Assuming the sacred
Gowns of their bright and naked selves.

Perhaps a thousand times, with sticks
In their hard hands, the peasantry
Struck the flanks of the trunks
To bring down the fruit thousandfold

Onto their blankets. One by one
The sticks were let go and hard hands
Themselves sank in the ground
Where still the sharp-stoned, dark drops fall.

Once a first flute whistled there to
Stubborn goats, the horned lyre mixed its
Mingled notes with a noon
Wind moving the silvering crown

Of long shoots trimmed for signs of peace.
From wood as tortuous as time
The grace of leaf has come
Again, ages into æons.

So in the harsh aridity
And in the dispiriting press
And suck of the city,
As if from nowhere, now and then

A straightforward beauty appears
Such as yours, that carries the air
And colour of the new
To all before it like the dawn

That the unsleeping birds announce,
And holds, like the moon when it rounds
To the full in mid-sky,
Unneared by any cloud, the mind

Still with brimming of thankfulness
And of wonder and, like the leaves
Of the olive, invites
Our hearts to be refreshed and hope.

John Gibbens, from The Promise


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