The speaker recalls his need to call forth a "slender memory" of his father. This memory from childhood is both "painful" and "sweet." In contrast to his father, who, as a political prisoner had devised complex mnemonics, the speaker has a haphazard memory. But is it his memory, or what he recalls that is "illogical"? "My father loved me. So he spanked me. / It hurt him to do so. He did it daily." The speaker remembers, also, how his father protectively wrapped him in his own sweater to shield him from cold. Years later, the speaker wears the sweater.


This poem evokes the ambivalence and mystery of parent-child relationships. Loving parents may behave toward their children in ways that are inexplicable even to themselves, border on abusive, and are undoubtedly culturally determined. The poem--a memory of an attempt to remember--emphasizes that relationships with parents continue, change, and remain mysterious throughout life, even after parents have died. Parents continue to live, through the memory of their children. "I won't last," says the speaker, acknowledging the double death that lies ahead when memory is no more.

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