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.

Bibliographical info

Stanley Kunitz's "The Portrait" from Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected. Copyright © 1997 by Stanley Kunitz. Used with permission from WW Norton and Darhansoff & Verrill Literary Agents. All rights reserved.

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