Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Portrait

My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
that spring
when I was waiting to be born.
She locked his name
in her deepest cabinet
and would not let him out,
though I could hear him thumping.
When I came down from the attic
with the pastel portrait in my hand
of a long-lipped stranger
with a brave moustache
and deep brown level eyes,
she ripped it into shreds
without a single word
and slapped me hard.
In my sixty-fourth year
I can feel my cheek
still burning.

Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitz was Poet Laureate from 1974 to 1976, and again from 2000 to 2001. The Monrovia Public Library has his books The Testing-Tree and Selected Poems, and his translation of poems of Anna Andreevna Akhmatova.

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