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Sunday, November 04, 2018


by Matt Witt

The poet's now-deceased grandparents Edna and Irv.

Our olive tree when I was growing up:
an icon in our Jewish neighborhood,
easily a hundred years old,
with rough-barked branches shading the entire yard.

Women in modest dress
stopped to harvest the olives,­
not so much to save money
as to remind them of home.

Under this tree of life
passed my Jewish grandparents
when each came to visit.

Ida was old country,
her parents from Poland,
her old smells and
old Yiddish expressions
foreign to my growing interest in
The Twist,
Mr. Tambourine Man,
a­nd protests against The War.

Edna and Irv had left their heritage behind,
hosting us on Christmas,
not Hanukkah,
and wearing hippie beads to
a “happening” in the park.

One morning I walked the family dog
past a neighbor’s lawn.
A cross had been burned
into the grass the night before.
It stared at me every day
until new seeds grew in the spaces.

Soon after, I sat under our olive tree
filling out a college application
that asked my religion.

“Should I mark ‘none’?”
I asked my mother.

“You have to put ‘Jewish’,”
she said.

“Put Jewish, or else
people will think you are
trying to hide it.”

Matt Witt is a writer and photographer who lives in Talent, Oregon. He was recently selected a Writer in Residence at Mesa Refuge in California and has been selected an Artist in Residence at Crater Lake National Park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, and PLAYA in Summer Lake, Oregon. His writing has been published in the The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the literary journal Cirque, and many other publications.