A Shelf Full of Paper

We had a shelf full of paper, my sister and I.
It lingered patiently by on a rickety bed
of chipped particle board and desert dust
(sometimes spider corpses and gnat wings),
loyal and silent. Mom had her secret stash
of tic-tacs and twenty-dollar bills, but I had paper.

My bare feet would cross the brown calico carpet
in search of missing doll shoes, favorite books,
little plastic treasures. A mermaid night gown
stretched across my knees like a second skin
as I sat on the floor to inspect my prize. But
eventually my fingers' stomachs would growl.

Makeshift tables out of dictionaries, pens
vacationing from check signings and grocery
lists - I'd gather my tools and set them ordered
on the floor like little calm soldiers. Scanning
my shelf, I'd listen for the stack that whined
the loudest. Blank surfaces begged for a face.

Hours bled dry to the scratch of lead and healing
erasers. Fingers grew long, stacks grew shorter
until my shelf held only the gnat-wing freckled dust
and the occasional spider corpse that, without paper,
frightened me. As time passed, I learned to hide them with
clocks, hand mirrors, and chapter books with no pictures.

These days I still savor the touch of a smooth, thin surface,
but suppress urges that turn dictionaries into tables. All that
remains is the soft, gentle whine of a paper receipt as it tucks
away behind my stash of tic-tacs and twenty-dollar bills.