I still remember that summer. Even at 7 I was already an avid reader and had built myself a sanctuary in the trees, my only connection with the world outside a basket and a rope over a limb that I used to raise and lower my books for the day. You came to me and handed me this little frail book, the plastic on the outside crackling slightly like secret whispers from the enigmatic girl on the cover. You asked if I knew the first poem, one called “Success.” I said no. You told me to read it, and I read it and every other poem in the book. A week later, you came to me again and asked if I knew it. I said I read it, and you told me that I didn’t know it yet. So I took another week and memorized it. You came back and asked if I knew it. I stood with my hands gripping the book and recited it, every line. You told me I still didn’t know it. So I took another week. And another. I read it again, I really read it. I felt it, I understood it. It blew my mind, and I have never looked at the written word the same way. After that summer, every book is a new world that maybe I don’t want to live in, but I can respect. Every poem a piece of someone’s soul, and I admire the person that was brave enough to tear themselves to pieces and hide them in books for some future lover.
You don’t read poetry anymore. You don’t tell me you love me anymore. You sit in your house with your drugs and your demons and convince yourself that it’s the fault of everyone you know except yourself. I hold this book close to me now that you are a shadow of what you once were, and remind myself that no matter how lost you are, you were once strong and wild and magnificent and my hero. I wish I still had you here. It hurts to think that my nieces and nephews, my someday-children will not have a grandfather, that they will inherit the burden of a raging boogeyman disguised as a pitiful broken man instead of the brilliant and caring person I had the privilege of knowing. But they will have this book, and this poem, and I will be there to pass on the lessons of your life. I will be there to ask the important questions.