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ISSUE:  Autumn 1996

My father had no patience
with his mother, even after
she stopped drinking, helpless
and shrunken in her cane porch chair.
After her death
he wouldn’t talk about her,
and turned on my mother
who explained his cruelty—
which I’d never noticed—
as anger turned backwards,
though he actually hit me
only once, in the rage that lasted
for months after she left him.
He never did apologize.
Years later he told me
about the beatings with bottles,
can-openers; the radio Grandma hit
my sleeping uncle on the head with
the night he stood up to her raving
and said, “You’re drunk.”
At our childhood visits, everyone
seemed happy; and now—as if snow
drifted over a toy on the lawn,
the color almost completely
covered—the soldier’s blue cap,
the doll’s rosy arm, delivering
a last, surrendering gesture.


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