This memory of my grandfather — my only one — is among my first and most vivid memories. From it, I have been able to construct an image of him that matches the stories I have been told. I am very aware of how difficult it is to discern the truth from images and stories, but this is what I have. So I hold it close.

In my memory, the room is dark,

but sunlight filters in from somewhere above,

casting a dusty light.

A red carpeted path divides the room.

On either side are tall stacks of

paper, boxes, and bolts of cloth.

My grandfather sits at the end,

behind an enormous desk.

Dark skin, heavy eyebrows,

thick hair in streaks of

gray and white and black,

and light clothing that glows

in the dark room, against dark skin.

He is large, a giant.

I have only this one memory.

Lack of memory is nothing, weightless.

But this one pebble I hold tight.

I am afraid of losing it.

As I follow the long red path,

I feel small, but sure.  I have

done this before.  I am not

afraid of the light at the end.

When I finally arrive,

he lifts me onto his lap.

He takes the tin from behind.

It was the tin I wanted.

He opens it, the sugar smell

cuts through the dust, and

he offers me a biscuit.

I was four years old.