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Live Oak
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 together right.
      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.
flaming acorns
burst from the grill
-- my heart

Tad Wojnicki, 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 Meyes, 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 Lover! workshops.