it was a sunny summer afternoon
i don’t remember exactly when
but i must have been around 3
because we still lived in the little farmhouse
on ellison ridge
where uncle louis hung himself

the day felt the same way i feel
when i hear the cowboy junkies sing
sweet jane
lush and southern

dad was sitting with me
at the white picnic table
he built with his hands

i climbed on top of the table
to be closer to the large overhanging tree limbs
telling him i wanted to hang from them like a monkey

he hopped to his feet and i remember the jangle of keys and change coming from his pocket

his watch flashed in the sunlight when he picked me up and put me on his shoulders
then we walked to the lowest sturdy branch
within my reach and he said

“Grab on a-hold…”

i remember giggling with glee
as i latched on
he slowly crouched down and turned
to face me
freeing my swinging legs to dangle

he never took his hand off my shoe

“Daddy, let me swing!”

“I’m not lettin’ go-ah you, little girl…”

i held on for as long as i could but
my hands began to lose their grip
i clutched at him with my chubby legs
as he caught me in his arms

all i saw were his smiling dark eyes and glimmering green leaves

he was dead within three years
from kentucky fried booze and pills

and i’ve spent everyday thereafter reaching for him in various ways

uncle louis’ ghost isn’t the only one still hanging in that tree