For Dr. Lionel Joseph, former clinical director of
Brighton Allston Mental Health Association,
given to him upon his resignation
In South Florida, the Gumbo Limbo tree grows
like morning glory;
its smooth red bark shading the alligators and
anhingas of the Everglades. It feels as solid as
the cement in which we surround ourselves,
but cooler to the touch and
more comforting, like the carousel horses
that were once carved from the Gumbo Limbo.
They’re called “tourist trees”
because their skin peels
like tourists’ sunburns.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew knocked down
hundreds of Gumbo Limbo trees,
along with everything else.
Nothing is as permanent as
we hope it will be.
Ten years after Andrew
I found myself working
with a woman
who couldn’t meet with me with the door closed,
who looked at me in utter shock
when I told her that
have friends who don’t
hurt them or leave them.
She died a year ago—
I think she died
not really believing this.
What does all this have to do with you,
and me, and you leaving?
I come back to the image of the
Gumbo Limbo trees in Florida
lying prostrate on the forest floor
but re-growing despite themselves.
I’ve heard that if you plant a
the limb of a Gumbo Limbo tree
like a fencepost
you will get another tree.
It’s the best we can hope for.