“To a Mother Dabbling in the Memories Left in Boxes” by Hannah Barker


You slit open old cardboard boxes

you found in the garage.

You pace around our kitchen table

sifting through and shucking the younger years

of my brothers and me.


Joseph, like a first-born, carefully penciled letters of thanks for field trip money.

Two-year-old Daniel drew masses of red storms with thicker-than-blood markers.

My purple pen made wobbly lists of “resens” for Daniel not to creep

under my covers in the middle of the night when he was scared:

  1.           Hes too loud.
  2.           He’s to wild.
  3.           He won’t cooparate.


Joseph had your family smile in all his grade school pictures:

            “Well, doesn’t he just look like a Bohm?”

A scientist friend, “Dr. Athos,” had written Daniel a letter, saying

            “How full of light you are.”

A page from my first grade journal captured

one sentence, eight words.

My teacher wrote in the margins,

            “This took half an hour for Hannah to write.”


You found your unspoken apologies to us waiting

between the crooked notes Joseph once sang loud like a bullhorn,

underneath the wiggling toes of Daniel’s tromping feet,

twisted in the spirals of my notebooks confessing

loneliness on every Christmas Day.


From us to you:

You took our baby fat, our fake black leather pants,

our missing teeth and blanket forts that made the living room

a war zone, our tantrums about not getting Oreos in the grocery store,

our box tunnels that left the porches unwalkable, our pet

lady bugs and garter snakes, our watermelons smashed on sidewalks,

our freckles, our jackal laughs, our smashed candle holders

and broken crystal glasses, our covered light

and told us we were beautiful.

       We’re giving you back your apologies.

       We kept them safe in this box Joseph clumsily made when he was ten.

       We don’t need either of them anymore.