Madrone on the Hill

July 12, 2019

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.


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