My mother never forgave my father
for killing himself,
especially at such an awkward time
and in a public park,
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
I wonder if there is any event from my youth that I will remember so vividly as this in my advanced years. Still feeling the sting, not just of his father's absence, but of his mother's heartbroken rage, over six decades later, is really remarkable.
I like how Kunitz also paints a portrait of his father, both by describing his appearance, and describing the void he left in two lives. It's almost as if we feel the slap and sting.