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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.

I felt there were a lot of relatable aspects of the poem that were presented in a way that showed rather than said explicitly the complex feelings in dealing and going through life without a father, in this case, a father who committed suicide.  As someone who has a first-hand experience of not being able to talk about my father who was not in the picture, so to be able to read a poem that so accurately captures the complex terrain of this issue was enjoyable.  “My mother never forgave my father / for killing himself” shows the complex way that although the death of a loved is an obvious tragedy and hard thing to overcome, the intense love that one feels for their significant other can also cause feelings of betrayal and hurt to come into the picture in the way that the mother felt abandoned, left alone to raise a child, a normally considered joyous arc in a couples life.  The mother now has to contend with emotions of grief, well also being able to continue to care for herself and in the near future, her baby since it happened “when [he] was waiting to be born”.  “She locked his name / in her deepest cabinet / and would not let him out” is a good use of imagery to show how the topic of the father had become this forbidden and sensitive issue, that for all intents and purposes were trying to be buried and forgotten.  The phrase out of sight, out of mind comes is relevant here because it is often one of the biggest coping mechanisms is to push and bury and forget until you can pretend that nothing ever happened.  Although this doesn’t reconcile feelings of loneliness and grief, it does create a pathway to ignore such things and devote time and energy to other things that maybe matter more, like the start of a new family.  However, in cases like this, there can arise a discrepancy in the intent of a parent and the impact it has on a child, such that the child doesn’t always understand the meaning of designated taboo feeling sensitive issues evoke.  “though I could hear him thumping” is indicative of this in the way that the despite the child comprehending to some degree that the safely guarded and hidden away memory of the father was painful, the child still yearns to know of the memory of a man that should have been part of his life.  The painfulness of the subject is also once again reiterated with the lines “she ripped it into shreds / without a single word / and slapped me hard”.  In times like these words just tend to fall short or the emotions being felt are too strong to form coherent sentences, so it is much easier to act than to explain and provide a form of clarity.  “In my sixty-fourth year / I can feel my check / still burning” shows how the situation in terms of the issue of the father hasn’t changed much from before, and also shows how the event was monumental in the mother/child relationship as it left a mark on their relationship, enough for the memory and the repercussions it presented to last even into old age of the child


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