Michael Burkard reads
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I examined my father’s eyeglasses late one Friday morning. I had to climb to the bureau-top from a chair to do this. And I managed to drop the eyeglasses and they broke. My father was to leave for a business trip that very day, and the breaking brought on a confusion. I pushed them under the bed—not well, not hidden. And I don’t know if the punishment was for breaking them or for hiding them or both. And I don’t know if I broke them intentionally or not, if I dropped them through memory to the floor so that my father would not depart again. I tried pretending in my memory for years that my father himself broke his own eyeglasses, that he himself dropped them in order to prevent himself from leaving, and that I was merely a necessary pawn in this. And how could I forgive him this—for who would want to take a train to a foreign city only to leave his family far away? To leave a son who was the unknowing double of the older son, to leave a daughter whose room’s high window looked out at the tree, the moon, and the man who lived atop the telephone pole a street away. Whose room was a wonderful stillness we each visited but in which we never stayed. And a wife, a mother to three who would care of us as much from sleep as from waking. Whose sister Dorothy lived with us from the sea and lantern light of Nova Scotia though she was far, far away. What could he see with eyeglasses in a foreign city anyway, away from us? What multitude of faces and voices could alter the longing of our loss and tenderness? Were we tender? And if so, when? Whose version is as valid as my sister’s room, or her quiet witnessing of major and minor light?