This wasn’t an easy poem for me to get into. First I had to separate the poem from the poet and then suspend judgment on the content which seemed sort of vengeful to me.
You're being useful right off the bat here. You're letting the poet know that you had an important emotional response here, but you have some trouble being comfortable with that response. If we were doing psychotherapy, we'd want to know lots more about the feeling and follow up along that line; but we're not, we're trying to do the very different thing of learning more about our writing. For your own purposes, the feeling thing may be useful to you, and it may be something that keys you about interesting areas for subject matter in the future, maybe, maybe. But for our purposes we're interested in doing some stuff with technique.
One of the things that will be helpful here is if you don't think of the person talking here as Rob, but as the speaker. The speaker is the person that the writer is using — inventing, really — for the purposes of this poem and this poem only — to do the talking. The speaker is not Rob. The speaker is a character invented by Rob with a distinctive Voice — a distinct way of sounding that identifies the character as being this character and not, say, Elmer Fudd. You may like or dislike the Speaker, but it is distinct from Rob. This distinction allows Rob to explore different Speakers in different poems.
Each speaker will have a distinctive Voice, a way of talking; and each will have a distinctive Stance, or point of view that characterizes their perceptions about the world. Thus MacBeth is not Shakespeare, his is a Speaker or Character that is distinct from Shakespeare. He has a distinctive Voice, that is you can say he pretty much sounds like MacBeth in this play, though a lot of Shakespeare's Kingly figures do tends to sound somewhat similar; and his Stance, is distinct, being ambitious, bold, ruthless yet uncertain and fearful by turns.
You thought the Speaker here was vengeful. Think for a minute about that. Were you bothered by the Vengeful, you yourself bothered, or were you bothered by how the Vengefulness was done? Where in particular was the speaker being or showing Vengefulness, and what kept you from being caught up in the poem at that point. What ejected you from your experience of the poem there? Was it the presence of Vengefulness, or was it something that happened in the text that might have highlighted the writer's difficulty with that emotion, or with writing about it in a way that makes the reader feel included in the experience?
Do you understand my drift here?
You have your experience of the poem, yes. But the way the poem was written helped create those responses. See if you can match these things up.
Really like the line break on “the brand of his signet ring/on your cheek”, moonbean, adds a lot of power to the punch.
I’m a bit confused about the 20 years line, the “our” part and the relationship of the three over those 20 years. Probably just me not getting something.
Exactly, but what?
The opening line really didn’t grab me right off, but the way you sort of balanced it with the close is brilliant. I’ve had the pleasure of reading quite a few of your poems, and have come to expect layers of rich textures that so enhance a poem. This poem was quite different, perhaps because it was an exercise with limitations as to length and style.
This was a very good comment, and I think it was probably helpful, very. Moonbeam will let us know. In the meantime, I hope I've offered a few more tools for the kit in how to go about it here. These are additions, not criticisms, since you did a fine job, and didn't have the concepts going in, right? and now you do, and so do others who are interested in picking them up. Quite useful, all in all.
How about some other folks to build on J.M. wonderful example?