by Tad Wojnicki
Steinbeck's shadow sprawls over this page as it
sprawls over the Salinas Valley.
It's the shadow of a giant live oak.
He fed us our words. He used Mack to speak up
for the underdog; Doc to teach us the lingo of loving-kindness; Danny to express
our quarrels with God. That may be why in King City or Carmel, Monterey or Pacific
Grove—all throughout Steinbeck Country—it's a hell of a job to put two words
I read about Constantin Brancusi, leaving his
Romanian village and crossing Europe on foot to become a student of another giant,
Auguste Rodin. I think of myself, leaving my Polish shtetl and crossing the sea
to become a student of Steinbeck. But after a month of study under Rodin, Brancusi
quit. "Nothing grows under a big tree," he said.
I sit at the Cherry Bean Cafe, a few blocks from
where Steinbeck was born, and a few steps from where his books went up in smoke.
My hand chases his shadow.
I jot down bursts, bits, and flashes. That's what my writing is. Bursts, bits,
and flashes. Whatever sweetness I once had has been spoiled by salt. But it still
grows. It swells. I don't care if it's bittersweet. I care that it grows—under
a giant live oak, where nothing should.
burst from the grill
-- my heart
a Shoah survivor, worked as a college teacher, fruit-picker and
newspaperman who had arrived in the U.S. in 1977, speaking just
two words, "I" and "you." He holds a Ph.D. in
Philosophy and an M.A. in Creative Writing (San Francisco State
University). Among his teachers, he enjoyed most Molly Giles, Frances
Ron Hansen, and Rick DiMarinis.
His work has appeared in the The Jewish Spectator, Harrisburg Review, Porter
Gulch Review, Rear View Quarterly, Coffeehouse, Wild Embrace, Sugar Mule and
most recently in the literary journal ZYZZYVA.
He is the author of a factual novel, Lie Under the Fig Trees (1996), a poetry
chapbook Where Angels Catch Hell (2000).
He lives in Carmel, CA leading 'poetry powwows' on the beach and Write Like A