Shadow of Childhood

There is a special place
hidden within my memories.
It is a shadow of childhood.
Where Halloween
Was costumes and candy,
Christmas was magical,
And Love
Was a pure and unblemished vision.

I ride through the misty streets
Of the small town in which I grew up
On my old Schwinn bicycle:
The one with the purple banana seat
And the big curved handlebars
Tipped with plastic tassels.

Everything is still, gray, dull.
For a moment the air is stale,
Like an old library book
Having been shelved for years,
Musty pages filled with words
That may never be read again.

Then, like a timid dawn,
People fade into life.
The old yellow painted lines
Glow on the road beneath me.
I hear the sounds of cars
And barking dogs.

And here it is,
right where I left it.
My favorite Hot Wheels car
Tucked away inside the old tire swing
Hanging in the back yard.
This is the fastest car in town.
Every kid wanted it.
And it’s still mine.

I walk over to the old dog house
Where Sooie waits for me.
My mom said that’s what you call a pig.
I shrugged. Sooie didn’t know that.
As I kneel, he licks my face,
Unaware that he’s been dead for twenty years
And this is the first time
I’ve thought about him in almost as long.

Looking up, I see her.
Maria, my grade-school girlfriend.
I loved her ever since that day
I accidentally looked up her skirt
When she was climbing on the monkey bars.
I’m glad she’s here like this
A beautiful young girl,
Happy, carefree.
No longer the heroin addict
Living on a street corner
In some nameless city.

A cold wind distracts me,
Leaving me alone a moment later.
The dog house is long empty.
The tire swing is just a rotting rope.
The road is silent.
My rusty bike is buried in the weeds.

There is a special place
Hidden within my memories.
It is the shadow of childhood.
It is the haunting ghost
Of innocence.