Stranger In My Heart

by Ron Reed

My father is kin to me
and yet a stranger in my heart
I have not seen with his eyes
or tasted the air that breathed him life,
fowled his senses, cooled his fever
or cast sand into his sight
I am not so different, but foreign none the less
I feel him near me
Whatever love offered was unspoken
but felt deep within our fiber
His struggles boiled him into a pink, tender man
and the look of wisdom is shadowed
with sadness from silence and clouded sight
My father’s gaze is defiance
hammered into a shield, held at arms length
to fend away the demons that clawed
at his heart and soul
My father is a man of the earth
who ground dirt with his bare hands
that life might spring from it, sustained,
to sustain himself, to give meaning to his work
to define our lives for us
My father is the sailor
chasing himself around the world,
to breath the winds of a thousand shores,
a soul unsettled
making peace with apparitions cast from memories,
memories designed to stay the storm
the storm that bends, weakens and softens
And in the wake,
In the image of this man,
we are our father’s children

©Ron Reed 2011

4 thoughts on “Stranger In My Heart by Ron Reed

  1. What a perfect depiction of most father-son relationships that I have known. Your words carefully chosen, giving clear images of a strained, but love-filled relationship between a father and his son. Maybe the son grown up, looking back on his life with his father, realizing that he, himself, is not so different than his father was? Wonderful work Ron!

    • Mary – Thank you very much. This was part of my eulogy to my father. We had a very close relationship in the last twenty years of his life. He was a good and strong father. It took me a while to understand how much he meant to me.

  2. This is a provocative and intriguing portrait of a man of contradictions and the son who tries to understand him. He seems more chimera than real; a “man of the earth” who is also a “sailor” may seem confusing yet it is this very confusion that makes the father “a stranger in the heart.” The “shield” the father has is difficult for the reader to place; obviously it is symbolic but the juxtaposition of a “tender man” does not fit the image of a soldier the word “shield” brings to mind. Though “love was offered” the words were “unspoken” begging the question of how exactly the love was offered.
    Perhaps the fact the father did what he had to do to “sustain them” gives a clue into the memory of a child now grown into a man. It is not quite clear to the reader at what stage of life either the narrator or father is at. The beauty of this poem lies in its universality; the longing of a child for a father’s love gives it a haunting poignancy related to by the many sons and daughters who have yearned for a close relationship and mutual understanding that remains forever elusive even into adulthood.

    • Willow – Thank you. That was a very in depth analysis indeed. My father was in fact a farmer and a merchant sailor for many years, so it is literal and metaphoric. The love unspoken was because men of his era did not show emotion, but we knew he loved his family because of how much of himself he gave for our benefit. Age mellowed my father, but the shield is the defiance against his own mortality. Dad did in fact face multiple near death experiences and bounced back strong with each one…except the ;ast.

      Thank you for your insightful comments.


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