Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
oil on canvas, c. 1667–1670
With face upturned he stare
s into the eyes
of one he turned his back on years ago.
His clothing tattered, braggadocio
has disappeared, and now before him lies
new understanding of his father’s wise
advice and peace that he chose to forego
for poverty, debauchery and woe,
a past he wishes he could exorcise.
A father’s love, though, is a wondrous thing;
it reaches out, forgives all that is past,
offering mercy, blessing, tears and grace,
new sandals for soiled calloused feet, a ring,
silk garments blue and white, a fatted calf,
enfolding the prodigal in its embrace.