“Olive,” “Dishwasher” and “Orange”

Steve Brammell

“Olive,” “Dishwasher” and “Orange”

Olive

It is among the oldest cultivated trees in the world, being grown before written language was invented. – History of the Olive.

Who was the first to try

an olive ripe from the tree,

the paltry flesh over stony seed

so bitter it must be poison?

Who learned the magic

to make it succulent?

Sun cured or covered in salt,

soaked in brine or lye,

the months waited

with an ancient’s trust in miracles,

Washed, then crushed, the pits removed,

pulp placed in woven bags and baskets

and pressed for gold/green oil

hiding in plain sight,

the last drops coaxed from the dregs

with boiling water.

Full vats, amphorae lining walls,

riding in the holds of ships with many oars,

feeding flames of lamps and altars,

ointments rubbed by healers’ hands,

anointing poets, warriors, kings,

and the Chosen with their haloes.

Sun and rock, the old ones say,

drought and silence and solitude–

this is what the olive needs to thrive,

to provide for those who tend her

in these promised lands.

Her trunk delights in twisting,

her branches keep low and tangled –

in spite she lives for centuries.

Devoted generations stay home

and lie in her shade,

feel their blood

pushing up from her roots,

vessels for her spirit

when they dance without care

after the harvest.

Dishwasher

The kitchen crazy at his back,

clatter, shouts, profanity,

bangs and trash talk

interspersed with fire.

Filthy plates and silverware,

dirty water glasses and the sommelier’s picks,

all flow back with the current

and gather where he mans his post,

the big machine humming,

so hot and steamy he never gets dry.

Servers in black and white

enter and exit, plead with the line,

their clocks running out,

the expediter sliding

back and forth like a ninja,

prime time a battle in candle light,

bussers rolling in with loaded carts

jammed into his corner.

He knows the marathon runner’s steady pace

in a white sleeveless t-shirt,

tattoo snake coiled around a knife,

red bandana to keep his head on.

The staff sits out at the bar

after the doors close,

but he’s still finishing pots and pans

when the chef brings him

a fat glass

of Tennessee whisky

and shakes his hand

that at least warms his walk home

to the little apartment

with its single dresser,

the top drawer, his dress blues

neatly folded and the Purple Heart.

Orange

There were no oranges to buy

when I was an Indiana,

nineteen fifties child,

not like today

piled at the supermarket

with the apples and potatoes.

There was only the orange in the stocking

I received at church on Christmas Eve,

an orange the color of a rising sun,

warm and smooth in my hands,

its smell when peeled

an explosion of light

and happiness,

that magic little world

I separated into pieces and shared

back home

like Jesus taught,

its juice in my mouth

so tart, yet wildly sweet,

but the seeds, if you bit them,

bitter as the wages of sin.

About the Author

Steve Brammell

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Steve Brammell's short fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Alabama Magazine, Birmingham Magazine, RavensPerch, Northwest Indiana Literary Journal, White Wall Review, The Tiny Seed Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Flying Island Journal, Cathexis Northwest Press, Toho Journal and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Finishing Line Press recently published his book of short stories, Red Mountain Cut. He is a graduate of Wabash College and a member of the Indiana Writers Center, and has also enjoyed a parallel career in the restaurant and wine business for the past 25 years. He lives in Indianapolis.