Parable of Two Trees by John C. Mannone

Parable of Two Trees

A garden as large as a forest
with every kind of lovely tree
pleasant to the eye flourished.
In the center, two in particular,
stood tall:

One called Eba, a Cedar of Lebanon,
where tawny owls shared boughs
with bats. And deer rested under
its limbs, roots vining sandy soil
deep to soak up the holy river.

This tree, full of life, kind
to nature, offered itself as peace
to the world, glory to the sun
drenching hills in the distance.
Air around it, fragrant, a scent
sweet as prayer. Decorated
with light of early day, glistening
with stars of night. A darkness
full of glitter outshone those stars
radiating from another tree
towering over all the others.
Mávet was proud

to throw its shadow over
garlands of gifts that Eba
had offered.

Its pine needles tinseled a coppery
dawn and swished in a morning
breeze like duplicitous whispers.
Fashioned the full pattern, no other
tree was as beautiful; Mávet knew it.
It thought it knew everything.

In early fall
Mávet offered ripened seed cones
tender and blue as blueberries
but not as sweet as intended—
soured by rebellious, dangerous
meliatoxins that poison the body,
psychotropics that alter the mind.

So when the man and his wife
saw the fruit, they understood
nothing of the danger,
for everything they had
seen was good. But the voice
from this magnificent Mávet
was mellifluous and alluring
until challenged by the couple
that they were forbidden to eat
of it or even touch it. It hissed
“Surely, you shall not die!”

And Eba, the tree with all the gifts
of promise could not save them
being obfuscated by a crown
of needles piercing the life
-giving tree with spikes
of lies from transfigured Mávet
who also severed Eba’s trunk.

When Creator God searched
for the man and the woman
and found them naked
no more, but dressed in leaves
from another tree in the forest,
and they had that guilty look
of knowing it all, his anger
did not bloom, only disappointment,
as he threw them out of the garden
to work the hardened soil.

The towering pine, Mávet, however,
he reduced to brambles
snaking through the grass.

Of the true Cedar of Lebanon
though its limbs scarlet-stained,
he replanted since it still had life,
a truth that could be easily seen:
Eba was full of good
fruit, bulbous, and rich in spirit
of Christmas.

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In Hebrew, Eba means Life, and Mávet means Death. This parable is an attempt to retrieve Christian symbolism of the Christmas tree that was misappropriated by pagan traditions.

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John C. Mannone is the contributing poetry editor of American Diversity Report who has poems in Windhover, North Dakota Quarterly, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His forthcoming collections are Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2021) and Sacred Flute (Iris Press, 2022). A retired physics professor, John lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Image Credit: Sunset among the pine trees is courtesy of Great Falls Events.