I sit among an endless sea of people
Some faces I recognize from long ago
Others I do not remember at all
Then there are those I have never seeen
All of which are complete strangers
Or is it me that is the stranger?
It is not that I do not have courage
that I do not reach out and greet
And it is not that I do not want to
Instead I am constricted by
an old and deep feeling
Of being alien, unknown, and cast out.
A pair of cousins I once spent
so much time with — now silent
An old classmate who married into
the family — more well known than I.
A series of aunts who seem to prefer
to call me John instead of Stephen.
My mind peels back the layers of time
trying to remember what I had done.
I entered into the family as a child
from a home that was broken and bruised
Rare contact from my father’s side.
Abused contact from my mother’s side.
A whole and complete family I longed for
perhaps moreso than anything else
and to have a world opened up to
so many aunts and uncles it would seem
that at last I had found that welcome
among the family of my second father.
Eventually I went into self-imposed exile
Again just a child unsupported
through the weighted burden I carried
Fostered now by strangers
Disconnected with no view of the future
I started a family of my own too early.
Two decades spent away from the family
A young marriage attended by very few
Two births witnessed by only a hanful
Baptisms attended only by the congregation
Divorce splitting the only family known
Children aged to young adulthood
I didn’t know then if Dad’s family
was mine or if I was welcome
Never have I been like my sister
who invites herself in as if
everyone wants her there
When, in fact, they do not.
Thus I sat alone with my widowed mother
and spoke only when spoken to
Just as my grandmother taught me
Separated from my children so far away
Forgotten by my father’s family
Neglected by my mother’s family
Only in song could I reach out
Crooning both sad and lively melodies
Presenting a varied pitch of emotion
Performing so that all can see
That I am not just a silent man
But I am a man to remember.