Many hands had flipped my pages;
none so cold and tiny as hers.
She was a little girl when her father picked me up;
stuck me in his saddle bag and brought me to her.
At first, it was he who would speak the words
that my weakening pages provided.
He would read them confidently;
a voice for every character and dramatic pauses when he deemed it necessary.
Always she listened intently.
As if her father could truly create
the world that only my pages would ever hold;
my pages and her imagination.
Her little face would peer over her father’s arm.
She could read, but she liked it better when she could hear him.
She liked his voice.
I liked his fingers.
He was so gentle;
Never tore a single page,
and every night, after he’d tucked her in her bed,
he’d tuck me inside the bedside drawer to await another night.
I remember her eyes; how they’d shine.
And her little laugh and her smile,
sometimes quivering as the story strayed from a happy ending.
She loved it all the same.
Then, the father with the gentle hands and loud voice didn’t come back.
The girl held me to her chest under the bed clothes and cried.
Not a sobbing, feel-sorry-for-me cry;
a still and silent cry.
A cry where the tears just seem to have been willed out of nowhere;
only to pour down her face.
Beginning that night, I was the only thing she read.
My pages became stained with the work of her day;
as I always remained tucked inside her apron pocket.
She never set me down.
As the years carried by,
wretched people entered the house.
They sold the fine things of the gentle-handed man.
The girl with the bright eyes grew dim;
She worked, she read. she slept.
She slept in the ash.
As close to the fire as she could without burning.
There was no bed left in the barons’ house;
just a fireplace full of cinder and ash.
My spine crackled and snapped,
my pages frayed and fanned out.
My corners yellowed and curled.
The fire scorched small fibers of me;
and I earned the name well-loved.
But I as myself was not loved;
no, I was loved as the gentle-handed man.
It pained me to feel the hands that should have been so dainty,
pass coarsely across my paper, as if made of leather.
Then something happened.
Something happened that made the coarse-handed girl
with the ***** apron become careless.
She went away for hours and left me crunched in the apron pocket.
I never knew where she was,
but when she would return she held me close,
but did not read a word before falling asleep.
At night her dreams flowed from her pointed fingertips.
A boy danced there. A handsome one.
One who wore a crown.
On one such day,
I was forgotten upon the table;
I wondered if she would read today.
Would she remember the world inside my
As I thought this I heard cries and screams;
feet stamped over the floorboards.
A new hand picked me up.
Her fingers were long and soft.
But were they warm or cold?
She swung me through the air and held me high over her head.
I could not see, but the sound of heavy breathing blocked out the world.
she was begging.
They both were begging, at least one was.
The other was demanding, the fingers that held me shook ever so slightly.
And I was flying.
I was flying down.
And she was screaming.
Sobs, hard crashing screaming sobs.
I was burning.
God help me;
I was burning.