On their wedding day his father said
I’ll forgive you everything if you do right by this girl:
the unfinished education;
the empty table setting at Christmas;
the family name unpolished, unloved.
I never met my grandfather,
a man who lived under the glare of his wife,
but I remember my grandmother—a small woman—
her mouth eternally disappointed.
Dad bringing us down to visit her
to the small dark house on Bulfin Road
where the furnishings took themselves too seriously.
Later, in that same house, I found a studio photograph
of the polished family; my grandfather, something familiar
in the way he’s leaning against the table,
my dad, a beautiful child about three years old
sitting beside his brothers and sisters, and there
my grandmother, upright and disapproving
staring into the camera, daring it to blink.
That blond-haired little boy,
the man who loved his wife for sixty years,
couldn’t wait to cycle home from work,
gave up his wages every week,
cooked our fry on Saturday mornings,
scrubbed our nails, polished our shoes.
Still wonders if he did enough.
Still wonders if he’s been forgiven.