Original poem reprinted online here: "Undecided" by Hal Sirowitz
Originally read: February 13, 2013
More information about the Poet: Hal Sirowitz
Past me wrote this about the last line of the poem, "The last line might be too sentimental, but I feel that this end is strong due to the ambiguous way to read the end: dismissive, genuine, desperation." I reread and reread this poem and I understand what's going on -- a father telling his child (son) that they got him a gift of a shirt and, even though the parents has bought his son a shirt for the last three years, the father still cares. Yes, this is where past me saw this poem as a bit sentimental because the "plot" of the poem is one of those after school special bonding moments, but for this poem, there's something else to it.
The difference in the poem is this, "Father said." This is a small big point. The perspective of what is being said by the father is the product of the speaker. And, even though the speaker doesn't acknowledge the reconstruction, the poet had to show that what is being written is the "father" talking.
Now for poems like these -- where the speaker or poet is trying to reconstruct what is being said, there's usually a hint of bias in the lines. For example, there's a sense of sympathy through distinct usage of certain words (i.e. wept vs cry, laughed at vs laughed with [this isn't the best example]) something like this. However, in this poem, with the exception of Father said, mostly feels like what the father would say.
However, the exception is pretty big, "but that'd have been too impersonal" Although the vernacular fits with how the father is addressing the child -- kind of like a sit down talk around the television -- the usage of "impersonal" refocuses the poem to this idea.
Past me wrote about the "impersonal line," "I like the irony of this." I think what I meant to write was that the one being impersonal is the speaker (We kept asking you, but you wouldn't / tell us" rather than the father who is trying to explain the value of the shirt.
So going back to the last line, "the impersonal" actually goes towards a very distinct tone -- all three:
"Just because you don't wear them doesn't negate our intent"
Arguably as well, "negate our intent" is another one of those phrases that shows the construction or a certain bias -- and it's toward the subject not the speaker. The speaker at this point never really shows himself rather than being address. So yes, we have no choice but to see the father's words as genuine, ans yes, we see a sort of desperation because the father is explaining and asking and wanting to connect.
Dismissive is from both perspectives. The speaker is easy to be dismissed if the speaker doesn't show up. And, at this point, there's a certain frustration in the father with the defensive phrase "just because" and is dismissive of not the son, but the father's attempt to reach his son. No matter what, the son isn't responding.