What I’d Keep
Cathy Barber

Give me back the grocery across the highway
      where we spent every paper route penny on Chunky bars and
      Necco Wafers and candy dots on paper
Give me back the balance bar grown into the oak trees,
      high enough to feel dangerous.
Give me back the turtle pancake suppers on Sunday evenings
      and still liking Disney.

            Here are the cinders in my knees,
                  the bee stings
                             and the broken leg,
            the wooden stairs curving too steeply
                      to the shared bedroom,
            the too cute sun suits with
                  the matching panties,
                              the spankings,
                  and the long, solitary walks home.

Give me back the tire swing, hung on a branch over the
      road, for terrifying drivers with whoops and feet outstretched
Give me back the pieces of insulation we kicked out
      of the garage wall to make a fort.
Give me back the smell of snow, the crystallization
      of winter sucking my breath away.

            Here are the newspapers
                    delivered into the tavern’s
                                dark cave every blinding afternoon;
                the three-inch garden spiders with
                     seductive iridescent colors
                          on their shiny black bodies, surprising me as I
                                    played in the bushes;
               the bully, his knife, and his
                        mother’s belief in all he swore.

Give me back the stack of 45’s, Chubby Checker and the limbo broom,
     gawky dancing on a Saturday afternoon.
Give me back Nina England and her chain-smoking family.
Give me back the bicycles of freedom.

            Here are the many tears of a lonely child,
                  the nightly fear of witches
                        and the tenuous clutching of covers
                              over my head,
                  the buckteeth and pigeon-toes,
                          gangly legs and frizzy hair,
                          the abhorrence of sex
                  and the years ahead.

Give me back a week with a loving aunt and uncle at Leesville Lake,
      power-boating on the open water.
Give me back the sketches of rooms, houses, mansions, towns,
      drawn and drawn and drawn again.
Give me back the Rainbow Bible for children,
      my name inscribed in front.

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