The Family Tree
The Family Tree

Even in broad daylight
while my kids call for him
by the new tire swing
granddaddy won't go near

            that gnarled old southern oak. 

He says I’m willfully
whitewashing history
when I let kids play there.
But I say let ‘em be-

            laughing as they swing now
they swing free.
Hi Mark,

I guess I feel a little cheated by this poem.  I want to know more about why grandaddy won't go near it.  The history hint implies something ominous (e.g. a lynching), but if it's that extreme,  the father's response then feels heartless.  Or a family suicide, same thing.

Maybe I'm making too much out of a simple poem.

"Take what you need and leave the rest"
Hey Tim-

Thanks for the comments.

This one came from simple observation, from which I developed a poem: a couple of kids seemed to be waiting at a rope swing.  A black man nearby (who becomes their father in my poem) appears to be arguing with an older black gentleman (who becomes the grandfather in the poem). 

I invented a scenario that the big oak tree is implied to have been used for lynching in the grandfather's past.  Would the son be heartless if he thought the grandfather's fears were based in fact, or could the son be insisting that regardless of the old guy's real or imagined fear, the kids' generation is justified in "swinging" with the current reality?

Of course, I had no idea what their discussion was about because I was too far away to actually hear it, so I invented a story around the observation...  Also, only two of the three kids were black, and for all I know, the other kid may have been his, as well. 

Also- there was no tire, just an old rope swing, but the "new tire swing" helped me keep the line at 6 syallables, to match the 6 syllable count of each line: a syllabic quirk of mine that helps me stay concise. Plus, "new" seemed important to the narrative.

All that said, what I guess I was gettin at is that change can take generations.

Thanks for the response.  (Thought later: it's not thr tree's fault...)

Your six syllable rule has got me thinking...
"Take what you need and leave the rest"

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