“I remember telling you” by Kate LaDew

all about my childhood bedroom,
the giant shelf with heavy books I was always a little worried
might drop right on my sleeping head
the blue-flowered lamps, hot to the touch,
the gnarled wooden desk and even the phantom footsteps I heard at night,
pacing and stopping at the doorway before treading on, the sound disappearing
but what most impressed you was the endless shelf of stuffed animals against the wall
under the lace-curtained windows, piled high so that barely any light got in,
throwing strange shadows of bears and dogs and sheep and dragons and unicorns
I told you about our daily tea parties followed by literal kangaroo courts,
animals were always committing small crimes
like not saying hello in the morning or eating the last hush puppy,
and I judged swiftly and fairly, giving light sentences like ‘please try to be nice’
and after my mom or dad read me a story, inevitably where’s goldie
or something from the heavy book with pop-up pages of trolls and fairies
and nightmare inducing things, I comforted myself by saying good night to each stuffed animal,
trying not to play favorites, as I patted each on the head,
but after awhile realizing it was always in the same order,
least loved, said quick and perfunctory, (night, blue-y red-y…)
to most loved (goodnight, my dear the-pet, goodnight white-y my lovable dog,
goodnight sweet whitley rabbit, mr. bingo, my good snowman, goodnight…)
and I was sure they had all caught on to my favoritism
and were discussing it amongst themselves in little groups
it didn’t help that most never left the shelf,
only a few (the-pet most of all) slept snuggled into my chest
but she was my favorite, my button-eyed, spanish-speaking armadillo,
and I let you hold her once, tiny in your hands,
and you had the grace not to laugh when I told you, careful, now,
I have her still, amongst my shoes, in the tiny square cubby in the closet that nothing fits,
she watches me as I leave and come back, walking past her with barely a glance
and it isn’t often, but sometimes, when I’m choosing between brown or black shoes
I find her where she’s been for so long, button eyes clear, so the soft gray cotton shows through
hola querido, tanto tiempo, I tell her, in the spanish I’ve cobbled together from work
and for a moment I’m a little girl again, holding something I don’t remember ever not having,
with a shelf of possibilities, soft shapes to hold against the heart,
and the ability to choose between the things I will love more and love less
free, for the moment, from the terrible feeling
that things can be lost and regretted and never found again
that there might be just one thing you love more than anything
and your loving will not keep it safe
that sometimes hasta mañana is a lie—and I remember telling you so many things,
I wonder if those phantom footsteps I heard a million years ago
were preparing me for the sound of disappearing,
the ear keeps straining to hear while the heart beats steady, knowing it can’t follow

Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.A. in studio art. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats, Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.

Image: “all those memories just sitting there by the curb” by Daniel Nester

search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close