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He is a withered husk of a man
with his spirit permanently hunched over
slinking away in tiptoes
on family reunions
at the first sign of his ex-wife
or his children’s arrival,
as if breathing the same air as the people
he had abandoned decades ago
were impossible
and would burn him alive.
His sons have grown
to be fine, upstanding gentlemen
who love their own kids
just a little too fiercely;
his daughters’ trust issues with men
kept their needs complex,
streaked with defiance
and covetous of solitude.
They have divided forgiveness
among them, unevenly.
One swallowed it dry and found
it tasted like burnt pride.
Others carried it in their hands
until it softened
and rubbed it against their bruises.
The last one sat it on the shelf
for years, forgotten
until it took on the shape of a wedge
that he now uses to prop
his door wide open.

If only he would gather the words
and offer them. Maybe whomever
he had pawned his life to
would sell a part of it back to him.

He missed our wedding
and it was the first time
I saw my man weep.

He came to me, later
while I was recovering from childbirth
in a lovely little room with lilies
and whose windows let in the lake breeze,
healing my body with sleep
and ballads from Sugarfree.
He picked the time when his son
was away at work.
He wore a suit that reeked
of cigarette smoke and missed chances,
and all his words were drunk with sadness
no matter what he said.
He talked a lot but left
without saying anything.
And when he was gone
there was a dark imprint of hunger
that lingered where he had sat
and felt more tangible
than his presence had been,
reminding me of an empty womb
and my newborn son,
somewhere in the building,
being held and cared for
by somebody else’s hands.

“Man’s Hands” by photographer Yury Vinokurov


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