Grandmother Tree

Mary Beth Felts


Photo by: Anthony Scarlati

Anthony Scarlati walked out to the tree I call Grandmother to grab some photos of her broken, beautiful body .He asked me to sit with her so I could have an image to cherish once I’ve moved from this farm. She’s a grand tree who refuses to relinquish an ounce of her splendor despite what appears to be an impossible feat. She rests on the ground completely, haven fallen many years ago. Her branches gracefully invite communion, as they stretch out horizontally. I marvel at her tenacity, her strength, her welcoming, and her blossoms in the springtime. Broken, bent, and hollow, yet she thrives. She inspires me to be stronger than I feel, to persevere, to dare to bloom against all odds, and to welcome and recognize other souls who seek refuge.
It’s a kinship I sought with my own mother, but never realized. It was a painful experience, but one I’ve made peace with. Grandmother was a great part of that healing.
I wrote this poem on Mother’s Day. I waited many years to dare write about us because the truth is not pretty. The truth is uncomfortable. And the picture that was painted for everyone else to see was false. I played along because that’s what we do, isn’t it? But, I know now, the truth, however unsavory it may be, will set you free. And there is no reason to pretend otherwise.
I was thinking of the final weeks of her life, just after Christmas, while she was in hospice care. Sitting with her every day, hoping for some words from her that might heal. But those words never came. She felt how she felt and she could not pretend to feel differently, even at death.
My sisters and I sang hymns by her bedside in her final hours. Singing her home.
The closure I wished for never came. But, I loved her anyway, all the way to heaven.

Touch My Mother
April 7, 2016

After such a cold hard winter
Suffocating in the gray
Walking out to touch my mother
beg to hear what she might say

I reached down into her darkness
Felt my fingers on her skin
Cross my heart and curse the heavens
She would never let me in

Weeds will choke out all the wonder
Where the pretty flowers grow
‘neath the window at my back door
secrets no one needs to know

tiny hearts who dance to mirrors
writing words up in the sky
honeysuckle in the springtime
dreams of learning how to fly

yank my hair and place a bow in
shine my shoes and press my dress
quiet lest someone should notice
there’s a mark upon my chest

years of hell and heart of hunger
that’s the gift she left at death
hymns of praise and prayers to Jesus
as she drew her final breath