You are my oldest
friends, you with your ragged
covers, your split spines, your brittle
pages. I remember reading you in the secret round
flashlight glow, undercover, when
the crickets chirped. I remember
sitting on the front porch, swatting away
the flies, telling mom, “Just one more chapter!”
My name, written in a stumbling script, is on the inside
cover, along with the year we first
1985. 1986. 1987.
So I apologize to you now
for the times that Leo has used you
as a teething toy, or when Sammy and Abra
toted you around by your tearing pages,
pretending they were in college. I am sorry
to those of you being read and re-
read by Cade and Lucy so many times,
your pages escaping,
your dog-ears breaking.
I hope you know how much we all
have loved you.
How much you have
meant to us.
Perhaps sometime soon, when the weather turns,
I will put you in a box and
the kids and I will take you camping,
out into the woods (from the woods you have been
made, and to the woods you shall return).
We’ll start a roaring fire, and I’ll tell them how
the first time I read you, you made
my world a bigger place. I’ll tell them
how you changed me, and in those dancing
shadows your stories will come alive
again, the monsters just outside the circle
of light, the heroes there among us. Then
we’ll gently place you in among the flames,
watching your pages blacken,
reminding ourselves that stories are things
that can never be burned
or done away with.
Maybe twenty years from now a child
playing in the woods will dig up a fragment,
a paragraph, the corner of a cover,
and the words will light something in them,
something like adventure,
something that cannot be easily quenched.
I am sorry.