forced memories

Three caramel-brown shelves
cradling a treasury of words.
No standard size, a hodgepodge
of colours and characters.

So many saccharine stories with
enemy-captured/ reformed/
befriended-endings, encouraging
the moral high-ground.

Memories of holding my breath,
hiding the flashlight beneath a
pillow, concrete stillness until
Mum’s silhouette disappeared.

But no recollection of the words
being read aloud by another
while I nested in their arms,
my hair still damp from tub-time.

Visiting my sister after the birth
of her first child, I discovered a
shelf full of worn Seuss’. My copy of
The Velveteen Rabbit. The Wizard

of Oz my God-mother Saundie sent
for my tenth birthday. Running
my fingers along the gold letters
embossed in its green fabric cover

I recall it towering over other books
on the shelves in my bedroom. Yet
there is no remembrance of the time
before my mind comprehended

the arrangement of letters and words
comprising the symbols within
all of the spines that stood so tightly
against one another in my childhood.

Images of Big Little Golden Books creep
to my mind. How I read The Monster at the
End of This Book until its pages were worn,
always ‘tugging’ at the brick covered

page, breaking through Grover’s barriers.
Relieved every time I came to the end,
where Grover realizes he is the monster,
and he is really nothing to be afraid of.

Every night I read to Marshall,
inhaling the scent of Johnson’s Baby
Shampoo mingled with the lingering
hint of baby-boy clinging to his skin.

His favourites were mine — I was
delighted but not surprised when
one evening he bounded to me
with Grover’s story behind his back.

The music of his giggling and the
anticipation tensing his muscles
increased with every page we turned,
bringing us closer to the monster.

As his chuckles dissolved into peals
of laughter, I couldn’t help but squeeze
his shaking frame to mine. I wonder
if he will remember being read to as a child.

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