A Beautiful, Powerful Poem About The Prodigal Son
Enjoy another beautiful poem by our contributing poet, Dan Doyle. In this six-part poem, Dan meditates on the parable of the Prodigal Son and the beauty of forgiveness.
The Prodigal Father and Son: Luke 15:11-24
I wish no longer to be in my father’s house.
I will no longer bend to his rules.
He stifles my freedom, and will not let me be.
He owes me my share of the farm.
I will get it and leave all that my father
has forced onto me over the years.
I reject his God, his people, his nation.
I will quit this place and go my own way.
What father would entertain the immodest demands
of such a slothful and bumptious son?
This one, too, is only the second son.
He possesses no real claim to inheritance.
This demand is a slap in the face,
an insult to a noble father.
It would not be wrong for a father
to throw such a one out into the dusty lanes,
to disinherit him and leave him to bitter penury.
But this father bends to that request,
to the prideful impudence of a willful son,
and allows him the freedom to seek his own dreams.
He suffers quietly the sullen rejection
of his handsome son, the treasure of his mother’s heart.
His heart burdened by a world full of sorrow,
this Father endures the terrible weight of loss
as the passionate, stubborn youth turns away from Him.
He watches this son stride with heroic confidence
down the long lane, into the unknown,
Until his silhouette disappears
over the evening’s vermillion horizon.
I am free! I have shaken the dust of my country,
the laws of my father’s house and the insufferable
demands of my father’s God, from my feet.
I go where I wish to go, make my own rules,
suffer no limits from men or gods.
I am my own man.
I have the money to buy all the pleasures
the world has to offer. I sing in the taverns,
play with all the pretty women, and drink
the finest of wines for pleasure’s sake.
For the sake of my pleasure alone.
If a place, or a woman no longer pleases me
I turn away from them and take my joys elsewhere.
I will let nothing tie me down.
No man, no woman, beautiful as she may be,
will make me bend to his or her will.
I am my own god. I will what I will.
All else can go to hell.
The money is gone. It went through my fingers
like water through a broken dam and I have nothing.
Women no longer wish my company.
Men laugh at me and turn me out of the taverns.
I am lost. I am a man without a country,
a broken man without a home.
It has come to this; I am to work among the pigs
to be covered over with pollution,
hungry enough to eat their swill.
I have been prodigal and lost everything.
I am no one. I have thrown away my soul.
I wish to go home, to be in my father’s house again.
If he would take me back, even if only as one of his servants,
I would be better off than I am here.
I have been a fool. I know that now.
I have no right to go back, to enter once again
the warm welcome of my father’s house,
but this is the hope I cling to now.
I will go back to my father, then, and beg him
for forgiveness for what I have done to him.
If he refuses, I would understand, but oh,
how I pray he will forgive me and let me return.
I know now that to want what is not yours,
is the way of a child who wishes all good things
to fall at his feet before him without effort,
not the way of a man who knows the weight
and measure of duty and purpose,
who knows that suffering can and must be endured,
who knows that their are things greater than the self.
If he will listen, I will tell him these things I have learned.
Who is this who walks the path over the eastern hill?
It is a broken spirit in this one. He seems to bear
a heavy burden on his bent shoulders.
His clothes are so ragged and filthy.
The sandals on his dirty feet are worn to nothing.
But there is something familiar in this one too.
Why does he come this way?
My Son! It is my son who was lost!
My son whom I love has returned.
Let me embrace you my dear son.
I am polluted, father, both inside and out.
I have been a herder of pigs these many months.
Their smell is still with me.
But more than this, my father,
I have sinned against you and my God.
I know that I do not deserve to be under your roof,
but if you would let me, I would be one of your servants.
I would work and ask for nothing but straw
to bed down on with the beasts in your barn.
Come, my servants! Give my son a new robe.
Bring the family ring to me
that I might place it on his finger again.
Kill the fatted calf and bring fresh wines
from the cellar for a feast.
My son was lost and now he is found.
This is the day for which we have prayed,
let us celebrate the lost one’s return.
Only joy will be in this house now.
A great sadness once filled these rooms.
Now they will be filled with laughter again.
The family is whole once more.
What was broken has been made new.
What joy! My father welcomes me
with arms flung open, with a kiss
on my dirty face and places the ring
on my scarred and hardened hand.
He says nothing of my countless sins against him.
He only welcomes me joyfully.
His love overwhelms me.
What surprising joy!
It is good to be home.
Dan Doyle is a retired professor of English and Humanities. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology. To read more of Dan’s work, click here.