“Jehovah Whitney” by Whitney Olson

Whitney Olson


When I was a little / Witness girl
We didn’t / celebrate / Halloween
We didn’t / so I didn’t
Didn’t / celebrate / anything

The school kids / would call me / Jehovah Whitney
Jehovah Witness / didn’t suffice
And when I told my mom / she
Laughed / and said / See, even your name is witnessing

And all the / Witness moms / would
Pick their / Witness kids / up / from school early
Have a / Witness get-together / at
Chuck E. Cheese

A Jehovah / Witness get-together / never
A party / Witnesses never / Halloween
And Jehovah / Witness / Whitney never had
As many tokens as the other / Witness kids

But the next / school day / there’d be a
Grocery-store-bag of / leftover candy
From / the school Halloween party
Tied with two knots / and left / for me

I’d stick it in my backpack
Eat it all on / the school bus
On the way / back home / before
Jehovah Whitney’s / Witness mom / could see

Then one year she told me / there wasn’t
Enough / money for / Chuck E. Cheese
Excuse yourself from / the school party
Tell them you don’t / celebrate / Halloween

I excused myself / but
On the walk home from / the school bus stop
With no candy / or / costume / or / Chuck E. Cheese
I stopped at all the houses to / whisper / trick-or-treat

The neighbors smiled at / Jehovah Whitney
Gave me a tiny candy / somehow
When I got home my / Witness mom
Knew / what I had done

She walked me back / down the street
To knock on all the doors / told me
Give back the candy / tell the neighbors why
We don’t / celebrate / Halloween

I handed back / the candy / sobbing
I didn’t / Witness / know
I couldn’t / Witness / say
Why we didn’t / Witness / celebrate Halloween

from Rattle #74, Winter 2021


Whitney Olson: “I grew up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and lived in that community until being exiled at 24 years old for coming out as gay. This experience, and my career working with the elderly as an occupational therapy assistant, have come to shape these poems. I write poetry because it is the pocket of air trapped in our overturned boat, the language that fills our lungs and keeps us treading on, reaching out for fellow survivors.” (web)

Rattle Logo