Irreconcilable Circumstance

Out of focus save for
a lock of chestnut hair,
my father wholly in shadow
and his hands around my chest.
My mother watching but even then
consumed by her own darkness.
It’s my second birthday, and my father
is just home from sea, still in
uniform, his gold bars
on his shoulders.
Not one face clear,
but you can tell
they tried;
five years into a failing marriage that in five more
would fall through.
          But I remember that couch.
          I know that painting, only
          the bottom edge
          visible.
          It’s a homemade cake
          with unlit candles
          but you can tell
          they tried.

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