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After Lowell’s “Rebellion”

There was betrayal, father, when you broke the pact we’d sealed one evening with two snuffed cigarettes: that neither of us would smoke again if the other didn’t. But why am I left tonight—though thirty years have passed and death has stretchered you, gasping for air, away— dwelling again on that day, your voice, your breath, as you (lost in the rush of a fresh crush) tell me your latest news… The reek of you a proof, I thought, of weakness of love. I’d wanted you to save me, father, by saving yourself—for us to save each other. That you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, was something I didn’t want ever to have learned, a truth that burned down the throat of my lives, back, toward my birth, and forth, toward future children, future wives…