Never mind craft.
He's simply doing his best
to coax the pearl buttons
into lining up
on his daughter's
First Communion dress
without feeling
like he's stitching
more flesh
than fabric.

Used to turning the pages
of Kierkegaard
or dictionaries for French,
his mother's Hungarian,
his hands are broad,
but academic.
Soft, no calluses
to protect him.

This is before the arrival
of the maid
and the cook.
Before he ships off
the girl to live
with the Chilean nuns,
but after
he's left
the Jewish faith
in order
to marry a Catholic,
an Austrian actress
who abandons him
and their daughter
for another man—
and for other reasons
he will never fathom.

This is before
he re-marries,
selecting a woman
who will beat
his daughter with the same
with which she kisses
his cheek, always
turned away
after his wife
abandoned him.

he makes it
a practice to turn off
his hearing aid,
and does his best
to while away
the hours
in his library,
exerting mastery
over eight languages
he can read and speak
as if he had been born
into all of them.

This is before he
spits upon
my father, the man
his daughter
will choose to marry
and hangs up on her
after she calls,
immediately following
her humble wedding
on the continent
which she has chosen,
as unwisely, he thinks,
as her choice of husband.

Before my parents
visit and I am handed
to him, a man who hardly
knew how to talk to,
much less, hold children.
Then, he cradled
me in his arms,
and I like to imagine
something pricked
against his heart,
a feeling akin
to that which moved him
to pick up
his daughter's ivory dress
and mend it,
though he had
no skill to speak of,
much less faith.

Michele Santamaria

If you have any comments on this poem, Michele Santamaria would be pleased to hear from you.