The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Sunday

The Portrait
By Stanley Kunitz

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.


From Poet's Choice by Edward Hirsch in this morning's Washington Post Book World, admittedly an odd choice for Father's Day as Kunitz's father committed suicide six weeks before he was born. "The quest for the lost father is one of the driving motifs of Kunitz's work. It gives his poetry an elemental shock, a grounding truth, and takes on archetypal status," writes Hirsch. For instance, this bit from "Father and Son": "'Father,' I cried, 'Return! You know/The way. I'll wipe the mudstains from your clothes;/No trace, I promise, will remain.'" I guess if Hirsch says it's archetypal, it isn't wrong of me to think of both Aragorn and Harry Potter.

"The Portrait" rings all sorts of bells for me, not, thank god, because I relate to the scenario of the poem, but because when I was 15, I went to a summer drama program at Catholic University and the first show we did was a collection of poems and short prose pieces called Memories. By virtue of being the shortest and one of the youngest performers, I got pieces from How To Eat Like A Child and a few poems that were actually from a child or teenager's point of view. But "The Portrait" was read by one of the older students...his name was Ben, he was dating my friend Kate, I suspected he had a crush on me and she told me that when he got drunk at the cast party which was the one time in all of high school when I was well and truly drunk myself, he called her my name. So this kicks me with a great force of nostalgia. (Incidentally, perkypaduan, doing this play was how I met Michele K -- she was the stage manager, and one evening between rehearsals when I was walking back with Kate, we heard her singing and playing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" on the piano, and by the end of the summer we were best friends.)

This fascinated me: one rabbi's brief overview of the issue of fetal reduction in Jewish law. I particularly appreciated the footnotes. I disagree strongly with the politics of most of AISH's Orthodox contributors, but the acceptance of broad debate even on the most controversial topics, rather than attempts to come up with a single statement of Jewish law, pleases me greatly. This one on abortion in Jewish law is interesting too, though the author has a tendency to use the term "Jewish" rather than "traditionally observant Jewish" but at least he acknowledges that there's a lot of room for debate nonetheless.

I've not done this particular quiz before (gacked from bronzelionel) but I have been told that this is my significator card before, based on my sun sign I think:

I am The Hermit

The Hermit often suggests a need for time alone - a period of reflection when distractions are limited. In times of action and high energy, he stands for the still center that must be created for balance. He can also indicate that withdrawal or retreat is advised for the moment. In addition, the Hermit can represent seeking of all kinds, especially for deeper understanding or the truth of a situation. "Seek, and ye shall find," we have been told, and so the Hermit stands for guidance as well. We can receive help from wise teachers, and, in turn, help others as we progress.

For a full description of your card and other goodies, please visit

What tarot card are you? Enter your birthdate.

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This morning I pass along Death By Sean Bean from bean_daily. Must stay away from Harry Potter men because hallucinateme is trying to kill me with Gaz. Happy Father's Day: I am having my in-laws here for lunch, then am off with my parents, in-laws and children to an outdoor concert and dinner. We'll see who is speaking to whom today...

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