This poem speaks to the connection between father and son, the confusion caused by the son's inability to understand punishment, and the realization of how closely father and son share their own individual experiences. The poem opens with Carter remembering the way he used to act during punishment, not allowing his father to see his pain but instead keeping it withdrawn. Carter the boy thought the punishment was out of malice; Carter the adult sees that the punishments shaped his character, and taught him important lessons about morality and ethics.
Carter also speaks to his need for parental approval; while young, he wanted to be praised by his father, the most important person in his life, but he also showed a surprisingly cynical (or insightful) view of that praise:
I didn't show my need to him
since his response to an appeal
would not have meant as much to me,
or been as real.
From those rare times when we did cross
the bridge between us, the pure joy
(Carter, "I Wanted to Share my Father's World," Google Books)
Carter finishes the poem by recollecting how his resentment kept him from reconciling with his father, even as he had children of his own. Finally, when Carter's father was dying, Carter visited with his own sons and realized two things: first, that his relationship with his father was tainted by his immaturity, and that his father always had his best intentions in mind; second, that his father would always live inside Carter as the force that shaped him, and now he could pass on those important lessons to his own sons.
Though the speaker mostly hides his pain, the ties of blood ex