What a journey these poems have taken me through. What started as a single poem turned into an unexpected trilogy that somehow provides the closure the first poem needed all along.
Thank you to all the friends and family and colleagues who’ve given me such positive and constructive feedback about these poems!
Without further comment:
Father and Son III
Where do I begin? I feel so much shame
For the years of not talking, I know I’m to blame.
So much has happened since the last time you wrote.
I’ve avoided you since, without even a note.
I ignored all your calls, your texts, and your letters
With arrogant eye rolls and he should know betters.
I was just a dumb kid who thought he knew it all
But now here I stand, humbled by my fall.
The last time you wrote, you said “be better men.”
For too long I took that to mean be better than.
Better than those who have far less than me
As though their lives are not inherently worthy.
My present self can’t but look back in disgust
At my former self’s ignorance of what was unjust.
But my lessons came hard – at a great deal of pain.
I just hope that I’ve learned and won’t repeat again.
The standards I held and words that I hurled
Were demeaning to half of the entire world.
Somehow I stayed blind to their harmful effects
And the ways they hurt those of the opposite sex.
It seeped into friendships and attempts at romance
Turning something beautiful into an ugly dance
Where the man takes the lead and no one feels safe
Because his main concern is staying in first place.
The number of women I’ve hurt are too many
Though one in particular stands out more than any.
I got married, somehow…though it didn’t last long.
As I’m sure you predicted, I did it all wrong.
I yelled and I cursed, expecting to be served
By a woman whose love I just did not deserve.
She gave and she gave and loved me to a fault
Until I crossed the line…and committed assault.
I never told anyone the worst of it all:
That our son was right there to see his dad’s fall.
But my pain can’t compare to the suffering I brought
By allowing the spread of my personal rot.
But you stepped up again to do what I’d never:
To raise my son into a better man than I’d ever.
He cares for his wife, loves his children to pieces.
Even keeps me looped in, though I’ve given no reasons.
My actions have pushed away those I hold dear.
I hurt them so much, they must now live in fear.
And so I retreated to search inwardly,
But what I came across was scary and ugly.
I came across darkness made of shame and fears,
Of jealousy, lies, and hatred-filled tears.
But deeper I went, past more veils and walls,
To discover my ego at the center of it all.
The shame I now carry will be mine forever
And it’s something I hope I will forget never.
You did try to warn me about my old ways.
It’s all taken a toll – your son’s seen better days.
I just read you the letter I wish I had sent
To the man whom my ego had grown to resent.
But now that I’m whole and finally sharing it
It’s too late, and all that is left is to bury it.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here
To remember the life of a man without peer.
A man of coherence and integrity
Who was everything that I now wish I could be.
I just hope that in dad’s vision of “better men,”
A man like me might come to be forgiven.
And given a chance to right his past wrongs
And put in the work to move progress along.
But it’s not about me, my ego’s on its way out.
I just ask for your patience as I figure this out.
Dad, I’m sorry I took this long to see
What you knew all along: better men we must be.
The father must always endeavour to educate his son and to acquaint him with the heavenly teachings. He must give him advice and exhort him at all times, teach him praiseworthy conduct and character, enable him to receive training at school and to be instructed in such arts and sciences as are deemed useful and necessary. In brief, let him instil into his mind the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity…
The son, on the other hand, must show forth the utmost obedience towards his father, and should conduct himself as a humble and a lowly servant. Day and night he should seek diligently to ensure the comfort and welfare of his loving father and to secure his good pleasure. He must forgo his own rest and enjoyment and constantly strive to bring gladness to the hearts of his father and mother…
From the Writing of the Bahá’í Faith