Portrait of my Father as a Boy
It is the only photograph of him
I have and can look at without fear:
his first communion.
Stiff and solemn in black trousers
and short coat, feet close together in new shoes,
face small and serious, eyes fixed
and staring, mouth pressed tight,
holding in one hand a black rosary,
in the other, a white certificate.
I see nothing of my face in his.
Yet he imparted more of himself to me
in that brief moment of passion
with my mother than he could have known
than in all the brief years I knew him.
After the divorce, the house became
a home; the fears, the headaches,
the stomach pains, the stuttering,
I had known and all kept fresh by your
late night drunken footfalls in the stairwell,
one by one fell away gradually like scabs.
These, sir, little man, you unknowingly
bequeathed me as mementos, souvenirs –
to fill the gaping hole that left me fatherless
and like an insatiable hunger keeps growing,
and you can never fill. Pity you didn’t live
long enough to see how I turned out,
I might have felt like a slap in the face –
not at all a guise to forgiveness.