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This article is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

Certain Windows Dan Burt

We trail no clouds of glory when we come. We trail blood, a cord that must be cut and post-partum mess that mix with places, people, and stories to frame the house of childhood. We dwell in that house forever.

In time there will be others, bigger, smaller, better, worse; but how we see the world, how much shelter, warmth, food we think we need, whether the outer dark appears benign or deadly depend on what we saw from certain windows in that house. We may burn, rebuild, repaint or raze it, but its memories fade the least; as dementia settles in the first things are the last to go.

Despite the enduring brightness of childhood’s colours we may touch them up, sometimes garishly, to infuse the humdrum with romance as we grow old. Testosterone wanes, breasts sag, but in some, perhaps secretly in most, the adolescent hunger to allure and seduce, swagger and swash- buckle remains.

The inherent dishonesty and danger of romantic reconstruction is reason enough to try and record as accurately as possible what we saw, if we record at all. Vanity’s subversions are another; respect for acquaintances, editor and the few readers interested in context or what appears unusual a third. Last, there is the flicker rekindling the past casts on why someone picks up pen, or brush or camera.

Childhood ended when I turned twelve and began working in a butcher shop on Fridays after school ...

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