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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.

by Stanley Kunitz
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