Matt Witt: Blog en-us (C) Matt Witt (Matt Witt) Fri, 06 May 2022 22:42:00 GMT Fri, 06 May 2022 22:42:00 GMT Matt Witt: Blog 88 120 World Wide Work -- Books, Films, Music You May Have Missed  

Black Mountains HoodooBlack Mountains HoodooDeath Valley National Park, California

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update.

Writers on the Range syndicates thought-provoking columns that are then published by dozens of newspapers in the western states, including this one I contributed about an unusual coalition from across the political spectrum that defeated a giant corporation’s fracked gas pipeline proposal as part of a broader fight for a clean energy future.

New Verse News publishes poems that react to topical issues or current events, including this one that I contributed recently. is an alternative online news source started recently after a wealthy media mogul from the east coast bought the two newspapers in Oregon’s Rogue Valley, shutting down one and orienting the other even closer to the local economic and political establishment. I contributed this article explaining a plan by the small town of Talent after a devastating wildfire to stimulate affordable housing, bring back small businesses, and help prevent future disasters.


The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven by Nathaniel Ian Miller (Little Brown). In this contemplative and often touching novel full of nature lore, an unhappy Swedish man in the early 1900s goes to live in the Arctic, where he suffers a disfiguring mining accident that leads him to a life of solitude in a harsh and remote fjord. He eventually bonds, despite himself, with an itinerant trapper, a Scottish geologist, and his own niece who also could not fit into Swedish society.

Bird Brother by Rodney Stotts and Kate Pipkin (Island). Stotts grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington DC and was dealing drugs to survive when by chance he was hired by an environmental group to help clean up the Anacostia River to make it hospitable not only for humans but for bald eagles that once lived there. Today, he is a master falconer and uses exposure to nature to help kids as poor as he once was.

The Northern Lights by Lucy Jago (Knopf). Cultures around the world had a variety of traditional explanations for the aurora borealis, but it was not until the early 1900s that a Norwegian scientist demonstrated the actual cause. This intriguing biography shows the hoops he had to jump through and the scientific, corporate, and political forces he had to deal with, as well as the effect of his work on his personal life.

Deadheading by Beth Gilstrap (Red Hen). These 22 short stories tell about people in the South who live on the margins and ache for connection and ways to do right by the people around them.

I’d Like to Say Sorry But There’s No One to Say Sorry To by Mikolaj Grynberg (New Press). A Polish psychologist produced these 31 first-person fictional monologues, each just several pages long, by a variety of characters, some Jewish, some talking to or about Jews. It adds up to a poignant picture of how the trauma caused by persecution of Polish Jews during and after WWII and up to the present day lives on from one generation to the next. As might be expected in such a work, the deadly serious is mixed with irony and humor.

Generation Priced Out by Randy Shaw (University of California). Housing has become unaffordable for many in today’s younger generations. Looking at attempts in a dozen cities to do something about that, a longtime housing organizer identifies concrete steps that those who do have affordable housing can support, including building more affordable housing units, requiring that new developments include some affordable units, using public land for affordable housing, helping nonprofits purchase small affordable sites, increasing state and local funding, enacting strong tenant protections, ending exclusionary zoning, and more.

Our Veterans by Suzanne Gordon, Steve Early, and Jasper Craven (Duke University). Many U.S. counties have highway signs when you cross into them that say, “We Honor Veterans.” But in practice the U.S. mostly does not live up to that slogan as it prioritizes military profiteering and endless wars over policies to achieve peace and as it mistreats many military personnel both during and after active duty. Without support to transition from active duty to civilian life, many military personnel are now finding their way to local law enforcement and/or to right-wing white supremacist groups, often with disastrous consequences. Meanwhile, politicians, corporations, and traditional veteran organizations often advocate policies that serve their own interests instead of the veterans they claim to support.

Black Walden by Elise Lemire (University of Pennsylvania). Most history books describe Concord, Massachusetts, as a place where the American Revolution was launched by hard-working white farmers and where famous authors like Thoreau, Emerson, and Alcott generated iconic literature. This account reveals that enslaved Black people there provided a lot of the farm labor for wealthy farmers, and that when some of them became free they formed a small community in the Walden woods, years before Thoreau lived there.

The People Are Dancing Again by Charles Wilkinson (University of Washington). This instructive history was produced with the cooperation of indigenous peoples of southern and western Oregon and moves from their lives before the European-American invasion to the broken treaties and trails of tears to their reservation years and finally to their cultural revival.

Devils Hole Pupfish by Kevin C. Brown (University of Nebraska). For more than a hundred years, scientists and public agencies have tried to preserve a tiny and unique population of fish that live only in one underground body of water near Death Valley. The history of those efforts, often over the objections of wealthy developers, shows how clumsy humans can be when trying to “steward” already impacted ecosystems.

Twenty-Two Cents An Hour by Doug Crandell (ILR Press). Too many workers with disabilities are exploited for subminimum wages as low as 22 cents an hour while corporate executives, Wall Street speculators, and huge “nonprofits” grow wealthier and receive taxpayer subsidies, all the while claiming to be providing a public service by supposedly giving these workers “opportunities.” An exceptionally thoughtful and informative explanation of this exploitation gives specific examples, discusses the boycott of Goodwill Industries, cites efforts to make progress in Oregon and other states, and calls for nationwide reforms.

Toward Antarctica by Elizabeth Bradfield (Boreal). A woman who served as a naturalist on several tourist ships to Antarctica uses photographs, poems, and snippets of diary-like prose to share her thoughts and feelings that the experience provoked.

Forget the Alamo by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson, and Jason Stanford (Penguin). Despite the title, the authors want Americans to “Remember the Alamo,” but as a good example of the need to reexamine our history through a lens of fact, not legend. The actual dispute between the Mexican government and those like Davy Crockett who were defending the fort was over whether “settlers” from southern states were going to be allowed to import slavery into Texas, which was then part of Mexico.

Humane by Samuel Moyn (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). By focusing on the legalistic fine points of what kind of torture or drone attacks constitute “war crimes,” both major political parties have successfully shifted national discussion away from preventing wars and finding alternatives.

Managing with Labor’s Values by Ken Margolies (ILR). Activists in unions or social justice organizations sometimes find themselves in a position of supervising the work of others – a role they may not have expected. Often, they have internalized ineffective or even abusive management styles from other institutions. This guide, which can be downloaded for free, suggests ways to lead that are consistent with progressive values.


Soumaya. In this feature film based on a true story, a Muslim woman who is a manager at an airport transportation company in Paris is fired out of the blue as part of an “anti-terrorist” campaign, even though she has done nothing wrong.

Arab Blues. A psychoanalyst who has been living in Paris comes back to her hometown in Tunisia and sets up her practice there, with a specific focus on serving working class people. Everyone tells her that no one will be interested in seeing her, but the opposite turns out to be true.

The County. In the Icelandic countryside, a cooperative formed decades ago to free farmers from exploitation by outside corporations has now become corrupt itself. After her husband dies, a very determined dairy farmer tries to organize her neighbors to fight back, despite threats and intimidation.

The Sense of Wonder. A French widow with two children is trying, without much success, to save the family farm. Driving home one day, her car hits a stranger, giving him bruises that need to be tended to. It turns out that he has a form of autism and is both socially unusual and mentally gifted. In this feel-good feature film that often requires a willing suspension of disbelief, the two of them find that each can help the other.

Perro Bomba. A young Haitian man immigrates to Chile for a better life in this realistic feature film. He works hard and stays out of trouble, but, little by little, racism and classism in his adopted homeland keep narrowing his options.


Native Sons by Los Lobos. The virtuoso band from East L.A. displays its versatility as it covers songs from a wide range of L.A. musicians, including Lalo Guerrero, Jackson Browne, Buffalo Springfield, Percy Mayfield, The Beach Boys, The Midniters, Dave Alvin, and more.

Quietly Blowing It by Hiss Golden Messenger. Easy listening songs about love and loneliness and about working class life today, as in “Mighty Dollar”: “It never fixed a broken heart. It never made a dumb man smarter. Hey, but I made it try. It’s hard to see with the sun in your eyes.”

If you find this bulletin helpful, please share this edition of World Wide Work with others.

The photograph above, “Black Mountains Hoodoo,” was taken this spring at Death Valley National Park. More photos may be seen at, where all proceeds from sales go directly to the Rogue Action Center, an independent nonprofit hub for community organizing.

(Matt Witt) Matt Witt matt witt photography New Verse News The Memoirs of Stockholm Sven World Wide Work Writers on the Range Fri, 06 May 2022 22:42:08 GMT
World Wide Work: Films, Books, Music You May Have Missed

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.

Every now and then, a book comes out about events that I personally was involved in. The new book, “El Golpe,” described below, is one such book.

Years ago, I made a 19-minute documentary film (available free on YouTube) called $4 a Day? No Way!: Joining Hands Across the Border that, unfortunately, is still relevant today. The film is about working people in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada courageously organizing together to challenge global corporations and their political allies who have used violence and so-called "free trade" policies to try to drive down pay and working conditions in all three countries.

One dramatic incident explored in the film involves the murder of a union worker inside a Ford auto plant in Mexico by gunmen on the company payroll. The book, “El Golpe,” shares documents that shed light on the role the U.S. government has played in supporting corporate special interests like Ford against workers around the world.


Is Love Enough? Sir. A beautifully nuanced feature film from India focuses on a young widow from a small rural village who comes to the big city to work as a maid for a rich single man about her age. When he falls in love with her, she has to make him see the impact of class and gender disparities that he has always taken for granted.

Yalda. A young Iranian woman sentenced to die for the accidental death of her much-older husband has one chance at a reprieve. She has to go on a popular national TV show to beg forgiveness from the victim’s closest surviving relative. If she is forgiven during the show, the courts will let her off. This fictional story is based on an actual arrangement between a TV show and the Iranian courts that existed until recently.

Lunana. Gorgeous scenery, people, and music are featured in this story from Bhutan about a young man from the city who is sent to be the teacher in one of the most remote villages in the world.

Delicious. Food lovers will enjoy this feature film that takes place in France on the eve of the revolution in 1789. A highly skilled chef is fired by a wealthy duke, in an era when working for aristocrats is a chef’s only option and restaurants do not exist. A mysterious woman approaches him with the innovative suggestion that they open a business serving food to the public. 

Gaza Mon Amour. A fisherman and a seamstress in Gaza, both around 60 years old, begin to fall in love in this often humorous feature film. But when he pulls up an ancient phallic statue in his fishing nets, he gets entangled in the corrupt police state they live in.

The Great Postal Heist. For decades, major corporations and their political allies have been trying to dismantle and privatize the U.S. Postal Service at the expense of customers, communities, and postal employees. Workers, community members, and activists share their experiences and an alternative vision for how the Postal Service could be strengthened and improved instead.


The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin (Dutton). A 44-year-old woman in Hood River County, Oregon who is an administrator in county government and a beekeeper on the side has to overcome a crisis in her personal life, with help from an 18-year-old boy who is permanently confined to a wheelchair and a 24-year-old wanderer who suffers from severe social anxiety. In the process, she gains the strength to challenge corrupt officials and corporate polluters in the community where she lives.

I Only Cry with Emoticons by Yuvi Zalkow (Red Hen). A clever and humorous novel explores the emotional life of a 45-year-old man navigating a divorce initiated by his wife, the absurdity of his work at a tech company, a possible new love, and his relationship with his 7-year-old son.

New Moons edited by Kazim Ali (Red Hen). A very moving and varied anthology of poetry, fiction, essays, and memoir by American Muslims provides a window into their experiences, especially after 9/11.

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner (Atheneum). Ellie is a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy that confines her to a wheelchair. She’s also a lively, outspoken kid who aspires to be a professional baker. When she moves to a new town because her grandfather has Alzheimer’s and needs her mother’s help, she meets the best friends she’s ever had.

Looking for the Good War by Elizabeth D. Samet (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). In the years since World War II, what actually happened in that war has been rewritten so that many Americans today believe that the U.S. entered the war to fight fascism, stood united in making major sacrifices at home, and selflessly saved democracy in other countries. That description has then been used to justify U.S. wars and invasions ever since. A West Point professor revisits the war and its aftermath, finding that the story we tell ourselves is not accurate and has kept us from being realistic about the damage war causes and how little it accomplishes.   

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed edited by Saraciea J. Fennell (Flatiron). An anthology for junior high and high school students contains essays by 15 Latinx writers recalling their own experiences dealing with assimilation, immigrant parents, race, sexuality, white supremacy, in-laws, and more.

Trauma Stewardship by Laura van Dernoot (Berrett-Koehler). How can people who work for social change or in helping professions avoid burnout, maintain their own health, and continue to be effective? How can they deal with feelings of hopelessness, guilt, cynicism, martyrdom, anger at colleagues, or an inflated sense of self-importance? This book provides suggestions, exercises, and case studies, as well as some amusing cartoons.

Police Brutality and White Supremacy by Etan Thomas (Akashic). Former professional basketball player Etan Thomas had candid conversations about race in America with families affected by police violence, famous sports figures (both Black and white), retired police officers, journalists, educators, and more.

The Panthers Can’t Save Us Now by Cedric Johnson (Verso). A Black political scientist argues that fundamental social and economic change cannot be achieved by a movement that focuses only on race and not on class. An unusual aspect of the book is that the author includes responses by other commentators, including several who strongly disagree with him.

Elite Capture by Olufemi O. Taiwo (Haymarket). Analyzing progressive movements around the world, a Black professor argues that identity politics has been captured by capitalist and professional class elites. He argues for a movement that would “calibrate itself directly to the task of redistributing social resources and power rather than to intermediary goals cashed out in pedestals or symbolism.” He is critical of what he calls “deference politics” that “places the accountability that is all of ours to bear onto select people – and, more often than not, a sanitized and thoroughly fictional caricature of them.”

One Fair Wage by Saru Jayaraman (New Press). Not only is the minimum wage too low to live on but millions of workers are not even covered by it in most states, including many food service workers, delivery drivers, nail salon technicians, parking and airport attendants, home care workers, and workers who are disabled, below a certain age, or incarcerated. A leader in the movement to change that describes organizing campaigns that have gained increased momentum as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Watercress by Andrea Wang and Joson Chin (Holiday House). In this children’s book, a young daughter of immigrants from China is embarrassed by parents until she understands more about where her family comes from.

Major League Rebels by Robert Elias and Peter Dreier (Rowman & Littlefield). Battles between major league baseball players and team owners over worker rights and pay have been going on since the sport began in the 1800s. This historical account concludes with an informative chapter on the unfinished agenda for baseball and its union, including ending the exploitation of Latin American players, improving the conditions in which baseballs are made, ending public subsidies for billionaire team owners, improving the treatment of stadium workers, unionizing minor league players who make an average of $7,500 per year, and ending baseball’s support for military interventions abroad.

Baseball Rebels by Peter Dreier and Robert Elias (University of Nebraska). A companion book to “Major League Rebels” focuses on the history of involvement by baseball players in fighting racism, sexism, and homophobia both in the sport and in society at large.

El Golpe by Rob McKenzie with Patrick Dunne (Pluto). McKenzie was working at a Ford assembly plant in Minnesota when he heard that workers at a Ford plant in Mexico had been shot on the shop floor, one of them fatally. For years, he worked to obtain documents about what happened. The gunmen who entered the plant had been temporarily put on Ford’s payroll. The attack was designed to keep workers from choosing an independent and democratic union to replace the corrupt incumbent union allied with the Mexican government. Workers at the Minnesota plant provided various kinds of support for their Mexican counterparts, which drew the ire of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He wrote to his bosses at the State Department, urging them to get U.S. union leaders who were receiving government funds to help suppress – rather than support -- the workers’ upsurge at the Mexican plant.

International Solidarity in Action by Robin Alexander (UE). Two small labor groups, the United Electrical Workers in the U.S. and the Authentic Labor Front (F.A.T.) in Mexico, have partnered for more than 30 years to support each other’s campaigns for labor justice and to strengthen bonds through cross-border, worker-to-worker exchanges.


Almost Proud by Del McCoury Band. Bluegrass songs about coal mine wars, “Working Man’s Wage,” love, and loss.

Flowers That Bloom in the Spring by Kieran Kane and Rayna Gellert. Old-timey fiddle, banjo, and guitar music, from the Bailout Blues (“Crops are flooding, crops are dry, everybody talkin’ ‘bout a reason why”) to relationships (“Gimme that worn-out shirt, let me mend that tear, you’re hard on everything, not just the clothes you wear”).

(Matt Witt) Gaza Mon Amour I Only Cry with Emoticons Is Love Enough? Sir Lunana Matt Witt matt witt photography The Music of Bees World Wide Work Yalda Sat, 12 Mar 2022 22:56:17 GMT
Going on a Lion Hunt  

Pinyon, Late AfternoonPinyon, Late AfternoonRed Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, Arizona

This article appeared in the third edition of Trouble magazine:

Going On a Lion Hunt

By Matt Witt

“Going on a lion hunt! But I’m not afraid! Cause I got my guns! And my bullets at my side!” –

“Going on a Lion Hunt” is a children’s activity used by Scout troops, summer camps, and others. I remember it from when I was a kid. Children get in a circle. The adult leader starts a call-and-response chant about going to hunt a lion. The kids call out that they are not afraid since they are bringing their guns on the hunt, and then they act out overcoming obstacles like muddy terrain, a river, a cave, and more.

“For those who long for rugged beauty unspoiled and untamed by man, Sycamore Canyon Wilderness is one of the few places in the Southwest that can lay claim to such a lack of man's accomplishments. This area is home to black bear and mountain lion as well as a number of less celebrated but just as notable creatures.” – U.S. Forest Service

One morning in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness south of Flagstaff, Arizona, my brother, his son, and I encountered an older man in hunting clothes talking to someone by two-way radio.

Soon, we realized that the side of the hill ahead of us was crawling with hound dogs – running, sniffing, and baying.

At first, I was hesitant to approach the man. I live in Oregon, where armed men not long ago took over a national wildlife refuge for more than a month, trashed it, and threatened its employees, yet the leaders walked away scot free. The rural part of the state where I reside is increasingly plagued by armed groups that espouse a mixture of white male supremacy and hostility to public lands. Asking even innocent questions of strangers with guns could be a mistake.

But then again, the old man could be like a former neighbor of mine in rural Virginia. That neighbor hunted because he didn’t have a lot of extra money and counted on five deer per year as part of his household’s food supply. Although we didn’t hunt ourselves, we were willing to let that neighbor cross onto our land when he needed to fill his freezer.

So after a few minutes my brother and I asked this man what he was doing.  

“Nothing gets the blood pumping more than coming up on hounds that have bayed or treed a mountain lion!” Arizona Guided Hunts Outfitters

He said he was serving as the base for a group of men who were following ten hounds he had provided to them.

When he didn’t reveal more, I asked, “Are they tracking a mountain lion?”

“Correct,” he said.

When I asked how he knew the cougar was in the area, he said he had found a deer it had killed and eaten, and the dogs had followed the big cat’s scent from there.

We saw that he was closely monitoring a GPS device that received signals from transmitters attached to each dog so he could tell the men the hounds’ locations.

“Is the idea that the hounds will tree the cougar?” I asked.

“Correct,” he said.

If the hounds got close enough to the lion, ancient instinct would kick in from the time, long ago, when cougars had to fear packs of wolves. The terrified lion would climb a tree, knowing the hounds couldn’t do the same. Eventually, the men would arrive where the baying hounds were gathered and shoot the motionless cat at close range.

“I don’t know if we’ll get this one,” he said. “It’s a runner.”

“5 day Guided Mountain Lion Hunts are $5,000.00 per person. Weapon types can be archery, muzzleloader, centerfire rifle or centerfire handguns. Weapon choice is not as critical as other big game hunts.” – Arizona Guided Hunts Outfitters

“5 Days Any Legal Lion $5000. These hunts are conducted on side-by-side's or 4wheelers.” – Killer Lion Hunts Guides

It seemed the man wasn’t eager to share much more information, so we didn’t ask about the financial arrangement between him and the men who were following his dogs. But when I got home I searched online for the going rate. At $5,000 per person, this apparently is not a hobby for the Walmart worker who makes $11 an hour, or for teachers or health care workers or Uber drivers or anyone else who lives on a budget.

“Mountain lion hunting is meeting the Department’s management objective of… providing recreational opportunities for 6,000 hunters per year.” – Arizona Game and Fish Department

“As long as the mountain lion hunters are walking into the wilderness and are not using any mechanized form of transportation and no motorized equipment, they are legal under the Wilderness Act.” – U.S. Forest Service

According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, “About 850 livestock operators presently graze 56,000 cattle on public lands in Arizona.” But protecting ranchers’ profits isn’t a significant reason for killing mountain lions. Only an average of 27 of the big cats are killed in Arizona each year because a rancher claimed a case of “cattle depredation” – less than one-thirteenth of the average annual “harvest” of lions in that state by “hunters” seeking “recreational opportunities.”

“Trophy hunters have killed approximately 29,000 lions in the U.S. in the last decade.” Humane Society Report, “Cecil 2,” 2016

“Since 1890, there have been 29 fatal attacks by mountain lions on humans in North America.” – Arizona Game and Fish Department

My brother, his son, and I left the old man and continued hiking. We could still hear the hounds’ baying and see their movements. I wondered if this might be my long-awaited chance to see a mountain lion. A few years ago, I came across fresh prints in newly fallen snow not far from my Oregon home. And my son and daughter-in-law saw one calmly walking through the woods only a couple hundred yards from our house. But I never have had that good fortune.

I found myself imagining the big cat racing across this Arizona trail in front of us, and wondered if we would try to use our hiking poles to fend off the dogs long enough for the cougar to escape, and what sort of confrontation that might create with the gunmen. That didn’t happen, of course, as the lion seemed to be getting away without our help.

During our time in the area, we climbed to the top of massive red rock formations caused by powerful natural forces over millions of years.

We walked on an iced-over stream that reflected reds and yellows coming from steep and narrow canyon walls.

We trekked for miles through clumps of giant old trees – pinyon, alligator bark juniper, oak, sycamore, and more – and wondered what will happen to them and other living things there as the climate continues to get hotter and drier.

“The southwestern United States is expected to become more prone to droughts with climate change. The resulting loss of vegetation will not only impact herbivores like mule deer; their main predator, mountain lions, might take an even larger hit.” – NASA

In our visit to red-rock wilderness we had gone on our own kind of hunt. But contrary to the old kids’ game, we were afraid – not of the lion, but for our common future.

(Matt Witt) lion hunt Matt Witt matt witt photography Trouble magazine Mon, 07 Feb 2022 22:45:00 GMT
New Start New Start Along Bear Creek After FireNew Start Along Bear Creek After FireTalent, Oregon

This photo and text were published by New Verse News on Dec. 16, 2020:


By Matt Witt

It used to be

that if you walked along Bear Creek

that runs next to town

you could see the stream

only in a few moments

because the view was blocked

by brambles of highly flammable blackberries

and tangles of branches.


Then this summer’s inferno

burned everything to ash,

clearing out the old understory

and leaving only a sprinkling of

charred tree trunks,

like ghosts from the past.


Now you can walk freely

across cleared black ground

and see how the stream community works,

the side creeks feeding it,

the ducks and coots and geese

finding food and

shelter from predators.


It used to be

that if you walked through town

you could see the money stream

only in a few moments

because the view was blocked

by fairy tales about

rugged individuals and

the generosity of the rich

without ever asking

who all that wealth was

taken from.


Then the fire burned everything to ash,

leaving those who could least afford it

to scramble for survival

while developers and bankers met

to discuss how they might profit

by grabbing up the close-in valuable land

and moving “their” workers,

many with brown skin,

to the valley’s outskirts,

all in the name of charity.


Now you can see

how money and power flow

from bottom to top

filling giant pools for a few

with not much left to trickle down.


Along Bear Creek,

just weeks after the fire,

small sprouts of green

bring the possibility of

a new community

better than the old

with each plant and bird and animal

doing its part.


In town,

new sprouts of community

are taking root too

as people work together

to make sure everyone has

food and shelter and hope

and to ask what we can do

so what grows back

will be better for all of us,

now that we can see.

(Matt Witt) Bear Creek fire Matt Witt New Start New Verse News Oregon Wed, 26 Jan 2022 00:23:00 GMT
The Executioner's Face WelcomeWelcomeTalent, Oregon

The following was published Sept. 16, 2020 by New Verse News.

The Executioner's Face

By Matt Witt

We load the car --

two sets of clothes and

a lifetime of memories --

as skyscraper flames are destroying

hundreds of homes of

friends and neighbors

a mile away.

Did they get out in time?

And then what?


We hit the back roads,

searching for safety,

with Bob Dylan howling through car speakers:

"The soles of my feet,

I swear they're burning."


Decades of reports said

this was coming

without climate action.

"Hotter temperatures."

"Disappearing snowpack."

"More frequent and more intense fires."

"Urgent transition needed to solar."

"Rapid investment in energy efficiency."


We can already picture

the photos the media will feed us

of some scraggly guy with stringy hair

who may have dropped a match --

with headlines: “What caused the fire?”


There will be no photos of

corporate lobbyists

whose puppets for years said

let's double down on what got us here

or who gave us half measures

and asked for applause.


We drive through the smoke,

community destroyed,

and now Dylan’s voice is sounding more desperate:

"The executioner's face,” he wails,

“is always well hidden."

(Matt Witt) fires matt witt New Verse News Oregon Talent Wed, 26 Jan 2022 00:23:00 GMT
Legacy Whitebark PineWhitebark PineCrater Lake National Park, Oregon

This poem and photo appeared in the third edition of Trouble magazine:



By Matt Witt



trying to find my way up

with no trail

no footprints to follow

just snow


Through woods of firs and hemlocks

climbing steep open spaces

that would be meadows in summer

but now are huge white expanses

too cold to melt



a whitebark pine


sticking out of the snow


After three miles

the Crater Lake rim

formed by a volcano

thousands of years ago


The lake

a caldera

twenty square miles

winter blue


Frigid wind

cornices of unsupported snow

one wrong step

into the water

two thousand feet below

and almost two thousand feet deep


To the left

a massive peak

named by white men

for a president’s son


To the right


named for a federal agent

who annihilated native people


Peaks named as if this place

is a monument

to their legacy


This place

that was here

long before us

and will be here

long after we

melt away

like the snow

I am standing on


Back then

average snowfall

was nearly twice

what it is now

and the lake and air

were many degrees cooler


Habitat for

furry pikas

whitebark pines

and gray-crowned rosy finches

already in danger

and that’s just the beginning


Our legacy

what to name it?

(Matt Witt) climate change Crater Lake Legacy Matt Witt Trouble Trouble magazine Fri, 31 Dec 2021 22:37:16 GMT
Migrant Green-Tailed Towhee Taking a BathGreen-Tailed Towhee Taking a BathCascade-Siskiyou National Monument, Oregon

This poem and photo were published by New Verse News on May 27, 2021.


By Matt Witt

This green-tailed towhee
that weighs about an ounce
migrated more than 1,000 miles
from its wintering home in Mexico
to its annual nesting ground
in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument,
where I watched it taking a bath at a tiny spring.
It migrates every year,
eluding hawks and falcons,
braving snowstorms and lightning,
never losing its way.
This bird is a lot stronger
than I’ll ever be.
(Matt Witt) cascade-siskiyou national monument green-tailed towhee matt witt migrant new verse news poem Sat, 11 Dec 2021 18:47:00 GMT
World Wide Work bulletin on books, films, music you may have missed

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.


Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson (Scribner). An extraordinary novel sympathetically portrays working- class families in northernmost California who are dependent on redwoods logging but suffer from exposure to herbicides their employers use in the woods.

The Prettiest Star by Carter Sickels (Hub City). It is 1986, and a young man who had to leave his small Appalachian community because he was gay now has AIDS and decides to come home. Each member of his family has to come to terms with how welcoming to be.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (Flatiron). Two threads run through this vivid novel: the challenges faced by multiple generations of Cuban women in a “man’s world”, and the trauma caused for Central American women and girls by U.S. immigration policy.

There’s No Such Thing as An Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura (Bloomsbury). The young Japanese woman who is the main character in this novel moves from job to job, each more dehumanizing and meaningless than the last. And yet even these absurd assignments can’t drum out of her and her coworkers the desire to do a good job and have work with a purpose.

Telephone by Percival Everett (Graywolf). Just as a geologist learns that his eight-year-old daughter has a rare fatal disease, he finds a note in Spanish in a jacket he ordered online that is a mysterious plea for help. The two storylines progress side by side.

Madstone by Paul Fattig (Hellgate). When the U.S. established a draft for World War I, two brothers in southern Oregon who did not believe in the war hid out for three years in remote mountain terrain. Their nephew, a veteran journalist with a knack for storytelling, uses their experience as a starting point for a wide-ranging and entertaining exploration of the history of the region, its people, and his own family.

The Water Defenders by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh (Beacon). When a global mining company threatened the water supply that communities in El Salvador depended on, a coalition of local and international allies won unexpected and precedent-setting victories to stop it. This account describes the successful campaign and draws lessons for others fighting to prioritize human needs over corporate greed.

The Caring Class by Richard Schweid (ILR Press). More than 2 million people work each day as home health aides, helping seniors and people with disabilities to stay in their homes. Nearly all are paid poverty wages, often while generating substantial profits for financial speculators. And this doesn’t count the millions of people who aren’t paid but somehow fit caring for a loved one into their already stressful schedules. Schweid focuses on the experience of a large home health aide cooperative in South Bronx that is trying to make improvements for both aides and clients.

Not a Nation of Immigrants by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (Beacon). A historian argues that liberal politicians make progress more difficult by describing American history as a continual process of immigrants coming from all over the world to achieve freedom and prosperity. In separate chapters, she reviews the actual history of indigenous people, African Americans, Latinx, and Asian Americans, as well as oppressed poor people who originally came from Ireland and Italy and had to fight discrimination here for generations before they were rebranded as “white.”  

The Chinese Must Go by Beth Lew-Williams (Harvard). After Chinese workers provided much of the labor to “settle” the West, a violent movement that aimed to expel and exclude them from particular communities and from the U.S. in general laid the groundwork for anti-immigrant policies that continue to this day.

Trees in Trouble by Daniel Matthews (Counterpoint). Many people have assumed that climate change would progress slowly and incrementally, and that western pine forests would be able to naturally heal themselves after increasingly intense fires. Not so, says this call to action.

Sidelined by Julie DiCaro (Dutton). With some frequency, sexism in the sports industry is briefly spotlighted after a particularly outrageous case of rape or domestic violence, and then mostly fades from the public eye. A former sports broadcaster makes an important contribution by breaking down the recent history of women facing discrimination and harassment as athletes and as journalists covering them.

Ending Parkinson’s Disease by Ray Dorsey, Todd Sherer, Michael Okun, and Bastiaan Bloem (Public Affiars). In a highly readable book that will be of interest even to people with no Parkinson’s currently in their family, four medical researchers ask why Parkinson’s is growing faster than any other neurological disorder, including Alzheimer’s. They cite scientific studies showing that the disease is linked to specific pesticides as well as solvents in well water and lay out an action plan for keeping the number of cases from doubling again in the next two decades.

Soul Full of Coal Dust by Chris Hamby (Little Brown). While conservative politicians claim to be great friends of the coal industry, thousands of miners continue to be needlessly exposed to deadly coal dust that causes a slow and painful death from black lung disease. Activist miners and allies who continue to fight for prevention and compensation are up against politically powerful corporations who pay wealthy lawyers and doctors to shield them from responsibility.

Someday I’ll Miss This Place Too by Dan Branch (Cirque). A new law school graduate from California committed to a year as a Legal Services lawyer in a small Yup’ik community in Alaska and ended up staying in that area for more than a decade. He came to love the place and its people and to mourn the impact of colonization.

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlisle (Crown). The popular singer songwriter provides a candid memoir about growing up poor, the process of coming out as gay, and finding her way in the music field.

Course of the Empire by Ken Light (Steidl). A masterful black-and-white photographer traveled to U.S. communities, large and small, rich and poor, to document social disintegration and injustice stemming from racism and profiteering by the rich.

Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown (Shadow Mountain). A boy with a talent for creating comic books has an eye disease that could eventually take his sight. He is teased by other kids, except a new girl at the school who has both talents and challenges of her own.


Colin in Black and White. Colin Kaepernick was raised as the adopted biracial son of white parents -- a corporate executive and a nurse – in a California suburb. This six-part Netflix series directed by Ava DuVernay focuses on Kaepernick’s teen years to show how class privilege did not prevent him from being subject to racial discrimination, especially as he tried to realize his dream of becoming a major college quarterback as a step toward a career in pro football.

Hive. This feature film is based on the actual experience of women whose husbands were disappeared during the war in Kosovo. Fifty widows came together, over fierce patriarchal opposition in their community, to support themselves by forming a cooperative food business.

Bone Cage. In this brilliantly acted feature film, the last forest in a Nova Scotia logging community is being clearcut, and young people are out of options.

On This Side of the World (A este lado del mundo). The main character in this feature film, an engineer in Spain, is sent by his company to the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the coast of North Africa. His assignment is to help strengthen giant walls designed to keep immigrants from entering Spanish territory and thus gaining access to Europe. In a matter of days, he is forced to confront the realities of migration that have never been his concern.

Daughter of a Lost Bird. A documentary follows a young woman and her mother, both of Lummi heritage and both of whom were taken from their tribe and adopted by white families, as they explore reconnecting with their roots.

Orchestrating Change. A world-class conductor whose career was derailed by mental illness decided to start an orchestra made up of others with similar conditions. They now perform at concert halls, prisons, and youth facilities and are helping to start similar orchestras in multiple cities.

How They Got Over. Black gospel groups in the 1930s and 1940s overcame racism to pave the way for rock and roll and rhythm and blues.


Georgia Blue by Jason Isbell. Isbell and other well known singers put together this album of covers of songs first recorded by Georgia musicians and are donating the proceeds to three nonprofit organizations: Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight, and Georgia STAND-UP.

Hand Me Down by Kate Rusby. The English folksinger brings her beautiful voice to covers of songs from a variety of eras by an eclectic selection of artists, including Prince, Lyle Lovett, Kirsty MacColl, Bob Marley, Taylor Swift, Coldplay, James Taylor, and many more.

(Matt Witt) Damnation Spring Matt Witt matt witt photography new books new films new music World Wide Work Sat, 06 Nov 2021 13:00:00 GMT
World Wide Work -- Books, Films, Music You May Have Missed

Here’s the latest World Wide Work update on films, books, and music you may have missed.


Aviary by Deirdre McNamer (Milkweed). In this mystery novel that tenderly explores the characters’ emotional lives, both old and young try to maintain human connection even as their lives are disrupted by corporate greed and social breakdown.

Variations on the Body by Maria Ospina (Coffee House Press). Unusually creative short stories illuminate life for women and girls in Colombia, often from a class perspective. In one story, a young woman who ran away from a group engaged in armed struggle against the Colombian government clashes with a publishing house editor who keeps trying to reshape the woman’s account of her experiences.  

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (HarperCollins). In this exceptionally well-written novel, an oil boom in west Texas draws men seeking to cash in but brings trouble for working class women and girls who depend on each other for support and survival.

The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti (Hub City). The Partition – the division of India by Great Britain into two countries, one majority Hindu and the other majority Muslim (Pakistan) – left psychological and cultural scars that continue to be passed on from generation to generation. One main character in this novel is a Hindu woman who at age 16 is separated by the Partition from the Muslim boy she hopes to marry. The other main character is her granddaughter who lives today in Atlanta and yearns to learn about her heritage.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (Viking). During the Great Depression the New Deal’s Packhorse Librarians program brought books to more than 100,000 isolated rural residents in Kentucky. This novel paints portraits of some of the women who rode horseback up remote hollows to deliver books, often over the objections of local coal magnates who worried that the spread of ideas would stir up trouble.

The Ocean’s Whistleblower by David Gremillet (Greystone). A fascinating biography describes the work of Daniel Pauly, a leading marine biologist whose groundbreaking research has documented the impact of excessive commercial fishing all over the world. It also follows his personal life, beginning with a most unusual and difficult childhood as the product of a brief affair between a white French woman and a Black American soldier.

Rich Thanks to Racism by Jim Freeman (ILR Press).  Racism in education, criminal justice, and immigration policy is not just a result of individual white people’s attitudes. It’s also crucial to look at the ways big corporations and billionaires use their political power to maintain racist systems they profit from.

Fulfillment by Alec MacGillis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Through case studies showing the impact of Amazon on communities, workers, people of color, the environment, small businesses, and the political process, a skilled journalist provides a valuable intersectional picture of a society falling apart under the changes huge corporations are imposing.

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (One World). A young journalist traveled the country to uncover dramatic stories of what being undocumented means to immigrants who toil far from the media spotlight.

Four Hundred Souls edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain (One World). Ninety writers explore Black experiences in America in the past 400 years through powerful essays, short stories, poetry, and other writing.

What We Mean by the American Dream by Doron Taussig (ILR Press). Liberal rhetoric about “leveling the playing field” and “rewarding work” reinforces the idea that the goal of society is to make sure that who wins and who loses is decided “fairly.” This examination of “meritocracy” argues that society’s goal should instead be to make sure everyone has what they need, and that most achievement or failure is collective, not just individual.

The Cult of We by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (Crown). Two Wall Street Journal reporters look at greed at the upper reaches of capitalism today by recounting the story of WeWork, a commercial real estate company that had Wall Street dreaming of making huge profits until it crashed, leaving thousands unemployed while the founder walked away with enormous wealth.

Stealing Home by Eric Nusbaum (Public Affairs). Written in the lively style of a columnist with an eye for memorable anecdotes, this is the story of Mexican American families who were displaced to build Dodger Stadium, the economic and political power structure that made that happen, and an activist who had hoped to build a public housing community on that land instead.

Drums in the Distance by Joe Mulhall ((Icon). A British researcher shares results of a decade spent investigating and at times infiltrating far right groups in the U.S., Europe, India, Brazil, and elsewhere. His report shows that the problem extends far beyond any single country or politician.

Girls Who Build by Katie Hughes (Black Dog & Leventhal). Interviews and photographs of 45 girls who use power tools for making things are combined with suggestions for 13 do-it-herself building projects and other tips.

The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble (Old Barn). When environmental apocalypse hits Australia, a young girl and her brother take their dogs on a harrowing journey in search of food and safety.

There’s No Base Like Home by Jessica Mendoza and Alana Mendoza Dusan (TU Books). Two sisters who were accomplished softball players themselves draw on their own experiences for this story about a Mexican-American girl in sixth grade who faces challenges in becoming a ballplayer and dealing with team dynamics and middle school.



Reservation Dogs. An irreverent 8-part TV series created by an all-indigenous team focuses on four indigenous teenagers in rural Oklahoma.

Summer of Soul. In the summer of 1969 (the same summer as Woodstock and rebellion in many urban Black communities), the six-week Harlem Cultural Festival featured outdoor performances by many of the most famous Black performers. This documentary combines footage of some of those performances with evocative interviews with attendees conducted at the time and more recently. 

The Surrogate. A web designer for a nonprofit happily agrees to carry a baby for her best friend and his husband. But three months into the pregnancy, the results of a pre-natal test force the three of them to examine their values and their relationship.

Guie'dani's Navel. A Zapotec single mother leaves her small village to work as a live-in housekeeper for an upwardly mobile family in Mexico City, bringing her teenage daughter with her. While the woman does her best to please the family, her daughter rebels against the exploitation and indignities imposed on them.

Of Mind and Music. The lives of a Latinx Alzheimer's researcher and a Black street singer in New Orleans become intertwined as he tries to help her and her family recognize and cope with her condition.

My Wonderful Wanda. A poor woman from Poland takes a job in Switzerland providing care for the ailing patriarch of a wealthy, dysfunctional family to earn money she needs to provide for her own children back home. An unexpected turn of events challenges all concerned.



The Horses and the Hounds by James McMurtry. McMurtry knows how to tell a story in song, whether it’s about a rekindled old love or America’s recent wars or just a bad day made worse by not being able to find his glasses.

Family Reunion by Della Mae. We can’t go back, sings this all-women string band, to “The Way It Was Before.”

(Matt Witt) Aviary Matt Witt matt witt photography Reservation Dogs World Wide Work Mon, 06 Sep 2021 10:00:00 GMT
Powerful Poetry on Horsetail at DawnHorsetail at DawnRogue River, Oregon

Powerful poetry by eight women is contained in the latest edition of Radar, an online poetry journal that publishes a photograph or other image with each poem.

I'm lucky enough to have six of my photographs published along side poems by Amy Miller.

If you haven't seen before, check it out.


(Matt Witt) matt witt matt witt photography radar Tue, 27 Oct 2020 22:40:58 GMT
Beartooth Beauty The following article appeared in the Billings (MT) Gazette on Sept. 28, 2019.

Sandhill Crane at SunsetSandhill Crane at SunsetAbsaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Wyoming

By Matt Witt

It was 8:30 p.m. on a late July evening in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness when an hour-long barrage of one-inch hailstones finally stopped pounding my tent above Native Lake.

The lightning, which had been so close I couldn’t finish saying “one, one thousand” before thunder boomed, had finally moved about five miles away.

Hearing only a slight drizzle, I grabbed my camera and crawled out of the tent. The light was low, but pink sunset clouds were still reflecting in nearby tarns that were surrounded by the newly fallen hail.

In the other direction, dense clouds and the lake itself were glowing with the most vibrant purple I’d ever seen.

This scene was just one of the highlights of nine days I spent as an Artist in Residence for the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation (ABWF) this past summer.

In partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, ABWF sponsors several Artists in Residence each summer to spend seven to ten days in the wilderness, drawing inspiration from the beauty and solitude for their painting, writing, musical compositions, or other work.

For me, the artist residency in an ecosystem very different than where I live in rural Oregon gave me unusual opportunities to apply my “Closer to Nature” approach to photography, focusing in on simple details and uncluttered images in an attempt to see nature’s beauty with fresh eyes.

I photographed a sandhill crane silhouetted against a dramatic yellow sunset.

An intensely yellow-orange lily flower was reflected in a lake.

A rainbow appeared above trees colored with red sunset light.

Textures caught my eye on big boulders that I later learned were fossilized coral.

I had a relatively rare encounter with a pika and photographed a lone whitebark pine – both species in jeopardy as climate change threatens the cold environments they require.

As a follow-up to this artist residency, I’m now sharing these and many other images with ABWF to use in its educational work promoting and maintaining wilderness, as well as posting them for the public at

With the high-altitude weather sometimes turning harsh, and no one else around for much of the time, I had plenty of time to think about the people who survived in this wilderness for thousands of years without having a car at a trailhead or housing to go back to with electricity and heat. Given how much time most of us spend sheltered by those comforts, it seems more important than ever to protect wilderness and all the living things that depend on it.

This summer, two other artists took part in ABWF’s program. One was Stephanie Rose (, a painter who used a Forest Service cabin as a her base of operations.

“I painted a collection of field studies, each of which seared into my memory my impressions of a particular place,” Rose said. “I will use these field studies to grow paintings in the studio, where I am able to further distill the motif I want to communicate to other people.”

The other was Marc Beaudin (, a poet and theater artist who worked from a remote Forest Service cabin up the Boulder River south of Big Timber.

“I finished a manuscript of poetry called Life List, where each poem honors a different bird species that has made an impact on my life and writing,” Beaudin said. “Having several days and nights without electricity, and all the disruptive technologies that come with it, meant there was nothing to take me away from my work, and having the power and beauty of the mountains, forest and river around me meant constant inspiration to keep at it.”

This was the sixth year the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation has operated its Artist in Residence Program, according to David Kallenbach, ABWF’s executive director. 

“I’ve been astounded by how many people have found out about the opportunity and by the diverse qualities of the artists who have participated in the program – from a videographer to a paper-making artist to a composer, as well as painters, writers, and poets,” Kallenbach said.

To learn more about the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation and how to get involved in its many volunteer opportunities, see


(Matt Witt) Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Foundation artist in residence Matt Witt matt witt photography Sat, 28 Sep 2019 23:52:35 GMT
Madrone on the Hill Madrone on the HillMadrone on the HillTalent, Oregon This poem, together with this photo, was published in the July/August 2019 edition of Jefferson Journal, the magazine of Jefferson Public Radio serving Northern California and Southern Oregon from Mendocino and Redding to Eugene and all communities in between.

Madrone on the Hill

By Matt Witt

The old madrone tree

stands by itself

at the very top of the hill

above our house

in southern Oregon.


In spring, small bell-shaped flowers.

In summer, peeling red bark

on a smooth yellow-green core.

In autumn, berries that feed quail,

raccoons, and bears.


When winter snow and fog

make it hard to see,

the old madrone stands tall

and waits for spring.


Near the bottom of the hill,

the grave of John Beeson

who came here to farm

with his wife and son

just before the Civil War.


He could climb this hill

for a longer view

and see the Table Rocks,

Grizzly Peak,

and Bear Creek flowing

to the Rogue River,

all millions of years

in the making.


Down below

he also saw

native people killed

like deer

by men who proclaimed

their Christian faith.


He protested,

sent articles,

spoke at meetings,

until a mob told him to

pack his things

and leave.


Back east, he published

“A Plea for the Indians,”

made his case to President Lincoln,

gave speeches in

New York and Boston.


If John Beeson could stand

with this giant madrone today

he would see a town

where anti-immigrant posters

appear in the night.


But also where

three hundred residents

defended a local mosque.


Season after season

John Beeson is still here,

like our old madrone

at the very top of our hill.

(Matt Witt) Jefferson Journal John Beeson Madrone on the Hill Matt Witt poem Fri, 12 Jul 2019 23:44:00 GMT
Tic Tac Toe This poem was published Feb. 8, 2019 by New Verse News.

I Am a Renter and I VoteI Am a Renter and I VoteRogue Action Center, Oregon TIC TAC TOE

By Matt Witt

As a child
I played tic tac toe.
Should I go here,
or should I go there?

Then I learned:
you never win
if the other person goes first
with an X in
the middle square.

Olivia tells the city council
she and her son
had to move three times
after rent increases
left nothing to spare.

She works at Walmart
but after the rent
the paycheck covers only
food and bus fare.

Frank, who builds expensive homes
and has fifty rental units,
tells the council he would love to
help people like her,
he really would,
but prices are
whatever the market will bear.

Profit first.

The X in the middle square.

(Matt Witt) matt witt new news the x in the middle square tic tac toe verse Sun, 17 Feb 2019 01:39:52 GMT
Stronger Together This article was published in the Medford Mail Tribune.

Bull Elk Between Two RedwoodsBull Elk Between Two RedwoodsPrairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California Face to Face with a Bull Elk in the Redwoods

By Matt Witt

There I was, with no sign of an impending encounter with a bull elk, as I hiked the remote and deserted Friendship Ridge Trail in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park south of Crescent City before Labor Day.

As I walked through the giant trees, I was thinking about the fact that while redwoods can be more than 300 feet tall, they have very shallow root systems. The reason they can withstand strong winds or floods is that the roots of many trees in a grove are intertwined.  They are like many communities in nature, I thought – they are stronger together.

My thoughts were interrupted, though, by seeing fresh elk scat along the trail. This put me on alert because it was rutting season, when Roosevelt bull elk can be particularly aggressive.  

I came around a corner, and there stood a young bull elk, twice the size of local deer, its impressive antlers towering above me, eating foliage from the side of the trail.

He looked at me with interest, but when I stopped, he went back to grazing, showing neither aggression nor fear.

The slope the trail cut through was too steep and dense for me to be able to go around, so I decided to wait, and to take photographs in the meantime. Surely, he would leave the trail to go up or down the slope, opening the way for me to pass.

No such luck. He liked having his feet on a flat trail. He ate. And ate. And ate.

Growing impatient, I decided to see what would happen if I cautiously took some steps toward him, but anytime I did, he turned his 850-pound body to face me. Not wanting to be one of those fools you see in the news who provoked a wild animal by encroaching on its space, I backed up again.

Soon after, he decided to stop eating and chew his cud – to regurgitate some of what he had eaten back into his mouth for a second chew.

So he lay down – right in the trail -- to do so. And chewed. And chewed. And chewed.

By now, an hour had passed. I had planned to complete a 7.5-mile loop through the redwoods to the coast and past several big waterfalls. I had no intention of going back and no way to go forward.

Just then, two people appeared.  We eventually discovered that if the three of us stood side by side and walked slowly toward the elk, he would turn away and slowly walk along the trail in the direction we were trying to go. For the next mile and a half, the three of us walked together, with the elk leading the way.  The three of us, apparently, were a little like the redwoods – we were stronger and stood taller as a group than as one alone.

Once the elk finally left us and the two other hikers went on their way, I went back to marveling at this species of tree that has been on earth for at least 240 million years. Ninety-six percent of the original old growth has been logged, and climate change now threatens what’s left. I could only hope that the cathedral-like feeling I was experiencing – and perhaps quirky encounters with Roosevelt elk – will be there for future generations.


(Matt Witt) elk matt witt redwoods Fri, 28 Sep 2018 19:01:49 GMT
Mileage (Originally published in the literary and arts journal, Cirque, Summer 2016 edition.)


By Matt Witt

Low Water, No BirdsLow Water, No BirdsLake Abert, Oregon

A long-haul trucker’s got his shiny red rig parked

on an early Wednesday morning

off Highway 395 in remote eastern Oregon

at a wildlife area at the edge of Lake Abert

where the few tourists that pass by

might stop to snap a scenic picture with their phones

and move on.


Ever since GPS technology came in,

the company knows where he is

every minute of every trip –

exactly where he stopped

and for how long

(after all, how long does a person need

to eat breakfast or make a bathroom stop?)


But GPS doesn’t know everything,

and neither does the company.


They know that he stopped

a regulation amount of time to sleep

in that cramped compartment behind the cab.


They don’t know that he walked

along the curving shore

in his t-shirt that used to be white

and watched the young sun light up

the ridges in the salt-covered mud.


They don’t know that he saw

silver bands of seepage

trying to snake their way

from the bottom of the hill

out to the little bit of actual water

way out in the middle

of the mostly dried-up lakebed.


They don’t know that he thought,

despite himself,

about all the climate change

he wishes he did not see

everywhere he drives.


They don’t know that he climbed

a little ways up the hill behind

so he could see how the water appeared

out of focus and dreamy

with reds, oranges, and yellows

as the fast-moving clouds

kept changing the light.


They don’t know that he sat

for a few minutes

in the silence

doing absolutely nothing

except watching the geese

waddle away from him

like they used to do

at the marsh outside of town

when he was a boy.


In a few days

he will pull that shiny red rig

into the company terminal

and the records will show

that he got as much mileage

out of this trip

as he could,

and that he never wasted

even a single moment.


(Matt Witt) Abert Lake Cirque climate change Eastern Oregon Lake Abert long-haul trucker Matt Witt truck driver Mon, 03 Sep 2018 07:15:00 GMT