the tree

Grandpa in the Bowler Hat

Last night I had a dream about a man.

He told me about his life. How he was born in his momma’s bed, and raised in the cornfields. His daddy was a farmer. From way back.

“One day daddy’s gonna die in that corn.” He looked at me and winked. “But not until I die first.”

He talked about his brothers. How he watched them being pulled under by the river. How he wondered what it would be like. To be gone. Just like that. In a flash and in a flood. Boys. Buried in a watermelon patch.

He carried a camera. Wanted to teach. To write. He took my hand. In long, slim lines we drew his name in the dirt. I asked if he knew my name. He said one day, part of him would. But not yet.

He liked fancy suits. Vests and jackets and bowler hats. Red ties.

“They’ll show up better. After I’m dead.”

He hands me the camera. I take his picture. He looks like my brother.

He said he had a wife. She liked to laugh. She worried. He knew why.

He sang about how hard things were. Constant sorrow. Hell on Earth. Whiskey in a bottle.

“Sometimes people need to believe. That it cant get any worse. Even if somewhere, somehow, it gets better.” He just wanted to run. “I didn’t know.” He looked at me and cried. “No one ever told me.”

I said it didn’t matter. Because someone knew. Even if he didn’t. Everything would be okay.

He said he liked blue. The color of his baby’s eyes.

“It’ll show up good in pictures. Even after he’s gone.”

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