The Lynching Tree

Inspired by Jake Morrill:

In the shadow of the lynching tree

Next to angry voices

Picnic baskets

Raw privileged certainty

I reject my brothers philosophy

Of “I can’t breathe!”

Because he doesn’t look like me

Because his family tree

Has roots going back in history

In the shadow of the lynching tree.

A personal documentary tale

This past Friday I was visited by my (former) son, Jordan. It’s so freaking complicated, but the nutshell is, I’m the fourth mother he’s known in his lifetime. He’s lived through unspeakable things which I helped him to deal with as best as I could. I had custody of him for four and a half years before he took off in the dark of night to live in a tent.

Anyway, he confessed that he and his girlfriend are homeless. He is by choice, she because she’s battling addiction to meth and has made questionable decisions for her safety and well being.

“I had no choice. I had to go get her from Asheville. She was living in an abandoned bar getting beat up and raped by a bunch of guys. I couldn’t leave her to that.” He told me privately. “I can’t go home to my mom because she doesn’t want Angie living there. This is all my fault.”

“There is no fault here. The choices made are ones where you know the path won’t be easy.”

“I know you’re all right about this, but I can’t just leave her.” He started to cry.

“Look. It’s not about who’s wrong or right, it is what it is. You’ve made your choice. Whether I like what you’re doing or not is on me, not you. I love YOU no matter what.” I stated while adjusting in my chair. “If one person tells you you’re wrong, they’re full of shit. But if more than one person is telling you the same thing, it just means it’s a truth you’re not ready to face yet.”

As he lit a Pall Mall cigarette, I inwardly cringed when he leaned forward, tears streaming his cheeks, “I don’t know what to do.” He exhaled sharply.

“Let’s not make any decisions tonight. I’ve already got you a room at the Comfort Inn. You can stay there tonight. Tomorrow, when I get finished with work, you come over then we’ll make a plan.” I said relaxing a bit.

“Okay. That’s a good. I can do that.” He choked. Angie sat in the car playing on her phone she just got back. “Thank you.”

“The room is already paid for, just show your ID at the front desk.” I nodded towards his truck. “If you plan on sacrificing everything for her, make sure it’s really what YOU want; not what someone else says is the right thing to do. I spent so much time trying to make sure everyone around me was happy, I forgot I existed. I don’t want that for you.”

“I know. I can’t leave her. She was getting beat up. I couldn’t leave her there.” I longed to hug him, but he’s not touchy-feely.

“Do you love her?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“If you know, you know. Stupidest thing ever.” I waited as he went to extinguish his cigarette. “It matters if you’re doing it for you and not someone else.”

“I know. Thank you.” He climbed the stairs. He collected his things, took the information I gave him on a small piece of paper and crumpled it into his front pocket. “Thanks.” He smiled through red-faced tears.

“You’re welcome. Don’t forget, I work until 1 pm tomorrow, then you’ll come over and we’ll make out a plan, okay?” He paused half way down the stairs.

“Yeah.” He smiled genuinely up at me as he got into his truck where Angie awaited him. She waved as they drove off to the hotel. I felt a boundary go up as I waved back.

The next day happened to be sunny. When they showed up, keeping social distance, we arranged for them to stay at a campground in Oliver Springs. I sent them away with two tents, two chairs, and enough hope to make it through the night. With a bit of tribulation, off they went.

I received a message the next day:

Hey. Checking in. We’re okay. Clean, Fed, safe and got tires and alignment. Waiting for it to be done now. I have almost 300. Gonna put up 100 and if at all possible more than that. Got a bag of tobacco and rolling papers so we don’t go crazy and strangle each other lol. Thank you for helping us so much and being understating (sic.) I love you and I’ll pay you back asap

Jordan Glenmark

I replied with “Thank you.”

This isn’t the lowest either of us have been. Even though it’s hard for now i feel blessed. You and freddy mike and tammy and a couple work buddies are a few reasons for that. You’re wonderful


“Thank you” is the last message sent from me.

Charlie Mackesy

This has nothing to do with Japanese Death Poems, even though it kinda does. I’ve made it into a have-to which means I’m commitment shy. I want to read them. I nearly made it through the introduction but found Charlie Mackesy instead at a client’s home.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse was sitting on the coffee table. It has a sketch picture on the front which is what caught my eye. The rough edged raw that showed beauty in loose lines with suggestive coloring. The inside cover filled with music that rippled in waves of tones coming off the printed paper. I was pulled in by simplicity in paradox.

It looks as if the print in the book were carefully calligraphied to demonstrate a deep caring sense of connection to the reader. Although there were parts (like the author’s name) where I had trouble discerning letters (Where’s my glasses?), the words were crafted with care.

“Life is difficult but you are loved.” Simple truth brought to life in a tale of loving friendship in a makeshift family. I identified with wanting to belong, seeking other odd creatures, befriending them in the way family could be, and walking them home. What a deeply sensitive place to balance; on the edge of tenderness.

Dive into the depths of light-hearted conversations rich with wisdom. This made my heart deeply happy.

Japanese Death Poems, II


One of the things I dislike about my time management skills is that I tend to attend to whatever coal is the hottest at the moment. Crisis in lane three, meltdown imminent! Wherever the smoke and mirrors of daily life are flashing the brightest, I find myself drawn to its spectacle.

And there sits the book. Judging me with not an ounce of its former tree self. I’ve caressed its pages more than the other many books on my shelves lately. It’s hard to concentrate when grief feels perpetual, even comfortable.

I experienced and mostly know what to expect with a normal bomb of grief. I understand that there is a loss of some sort, people get together and feel sad at the celebration of life, then, although time seems to stand still closest to the death/detonation, time continues to move forward whether we do or not.

I’ve been in grieving mode for what seems like decades, but lately, I’ve noticed a shift in how I deal with it. Maybe it’s because more people are experiencing the isolation, anxiety, anger, frustration, weariness, loneliness, and trauma that has punished my existence but now as more people are talking about it as the new normal, I got this.

I’m so familiar with grief’s handshake, that I, considering the pandemic, can only greet it from a social distance which means this is alien grief. This is not the grief I know. This isn’t that familiar.

Oddly, this feels like the moment I’ve been training for all my life. Because I know what it’s like to have your life ripped away because of an event beyond your control. I comprehend the feeling of “differentness” that suddenly sets you apart from everyone else by just enough to feel like an outsider. I really see the ones who think they’ve covered the gaping wounds sufficiently but the shock of life, like now, is just enough different to feel tragic. Almost like an imposition of force against one’s will.

These words aren’t meant to be analogous to any event in particular, but to demonstrate the way I’m hearing the quarantine be talked about regarding mental health. People are struggling to function by feeling the same things I feel every day. I’m hearing people feel hope slipping through their fingers like water. I know the depth of that well and yet I’ve never touched the bottom despite my efforts.

It hurts my heart to know how many that are talking about it are obfuscating the ones who won’t ever or don’t ever recognize the grief that comes from trauma, restriction of life, or the anxiety that comes from the fear that you may become ill among many others; the ones of the silent voice. I know for every voice that speaks, many tell the same stories in their hearts to their secret keepers.

I’m here. I see you. I feel you. You’re not alone. It will get better.

So, the book. I haven’t cracked it open, nor the other. I’ve been dealing with some pretty hefty events both positive and negative as well as inevitable. Things are, in my world, normal. I’m sorry. I’ll do my best. In fact, tonight I’ll bring it to bed with me and read.