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Mizna, Volume 9, Issue 2
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Olive Tree
He told me my eyes
were the gray-green of ripening olives.
How easily I was seduced by the veined stretch of imagination—
though I have never stood among olive trees.
His family’s mythology rooted
in those olive trees of his ancestors
seeded for great-grandchildren.
His father never forgave France for burning
olive trees or his son for emigrating:
you have forgotten the olive.
Yet I have come to understand
that he married me out of these very beliefs
his father said he had forsaken.
This was the story he was compelled to tell and retell:
how after he reached puberty
the women kept him out of the kitchen
shut out from air sated with gossip and griefs boiling over,
and how he spent years trying to get back
to this moist space made full by women.
I knew the way sunlight sieves
through pines and shimmers on the lake.
I knew the shifting blues of water—
but not the Mediterranean.
This he held against me
until finally we arrived at the fulcrum:
he took the bakery, the café, the culture;
I took the daughter.
There was nothing left
the olive’s first oil long ago pressed
but the everything that was the ripening of a daughter,
her eyes the color of hazelnuts, not olives.
It seemed he tossed aside the wisdom he’d known from birth:
Years pass before a trust
between the ground and the seed sparks.
Generations pass before the tree blossoms.
Only the oil of the tree gnarled with age
can make you strong.
Today in the deli
I saw olives—kalamata, greek, sicilian, manzanilla,
black, green, purple, yellow, marinated, cracked,
stuffed, thrown, pitted, unpitted. I had to laugh.
What he saw in my eyes:
the iris of his own ache.
What I heard in his words:
the timbre of my own loss.
Your eyes are ripening olives,
or was it: Your eyes are the leaves of the olive
sifting the morning light?
Years teach us the solitude of the tree,
the calmer acceptance of failure.
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Experimental Arab Film Featured in CAVE 2 FILM FEST Mizna: Prose, Poetry & Art Exploring Arab America Winter & Spring 2018 Arabic Language Classes

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Mizna is a Twin Cities non-profit arts organization that promotes contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. We publish the literary journal Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America, produce the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival, and offer varied other readings, performances, art projects, and community events involving an exceptionally talented and diverse range of local, national, and international Arab American artists.

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