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“There was a bole of an olive tree with long leaves growing
Strongly in the courtyard, and it was thick, like a column.
I laid down my chamber around this.”

The Odyssey, Book XXIII

Where but in bed does the world begin.
Where man and woman know, like children.
By touch and taste, by gentlest summons

Or sudden ache, the knowledge packed
In chilly seeds buried in earth.
The route to brightness mapped through buds.

The sure unfurling from winter’s branch
Of blossom and leaf? Here, at fountains
Springing from darkness, the couple sips

A deep refreshment. Rooted and branching.
Marriage plumbs its underground.
Dense with ghosts, and combs the wind

In open air. Fruit swells and ripens.
Firm in its skin, perfecting sweetness
As nibbled pears or a cradled child

Deep in a tick in a prairie cabin, settled
On rugs rolled out on sand, or couched on skins
Stretched firm across an olive trunk.

Thick as a column, its foliage cut.
Its surface planed with tempered adze.
Trued straight to chalklines, carved into posts

And gilt with silver, gold, and ivory.
Strung with thongs and spread with pelts.
Immovable from its private chamber

And native soil, the rooted bed
Holds hero and heroine, two strong swimmers
Matching strokes toward the longed-for cove.

Robert Schultz