little paper houses

in a shoebox somewhere in the closet
are the little paper houses
my glamorous great-aunt
gave my grandma for Christmas
their rooftops sparkle white
with post-war glitter snow
and their windows shine with welcome
for the little matchstick people
who must live within

i remember one Christmas
when i was small we arrived
at grandma’s house in sleepy darkness
and the lowlights from the kitchen
lit the little paper windows
with a glow i was certain must be magic
and in the morning the glitter snow
once more sparkled in the sunlight

several years ago at Christmas
i saw on the store shelves
some little paper houses
the spitting image of what grandma’s
must have looked like new
but they felt like cheap nostalgia
whose glitter had not earned the right
to carry magic

one year before Christmas
i set grandma’s little paper houses
in their place on the ledge by the stairs
and turned on the kitchen lowlights
to set them glowing. the windows
had shivered here and there, and
the post-war glitter snow was
graying over the glue —
yet childhood’s memories kept their magic bright

someday we will no longer go
to grandma’s house, for someone else’s
pictures will be on the walls
and other children will be making memories
in the cedar pasture beyond the pond
but at Christmas i will pull the
little paper houses from their shoebox safe
and line them up across the mantle
with lights behind so the matchstick people
can find their way home in the post-war glitter snow