Life’s Vessel – a poem by Bernard Cunningham

16 June 2023
Life’s Vessel – a poem by Bernard Cunningham for Father’s Day

It's important to speak to the men in your life about their mental health and wellbeing. This poem touches on those themes of "weakness" and "strength" and that the ability to share the depth of your emotions can stop you sinking. 

Life’s Vessel was written by Bernard Cunningham, Mental Health Support Worker for Leeds GATE. Bernard provides 1-2-1 support to our members, working with individuals and their families to support them in a way that works for them.

Bernard Cunningham © Leeds GATE
Bernard Cunningham © Leeds GATE

Life’s Vessel

I wandered through life lost and confused,
like a ship lost upon the sea.
Searching the far out horizon for a strength and confidence
I often could not see.
And the trials they shook this vessel and the deckhouse of my mind.


I was taught to be tough. To be a man.
But what is man? What does it mean?
Don’t cry man up! You’ve heard it all before.
The waves came crashing down on me as this vessel shook and shook.

Until I cried and asked for help to lead me to the shore.


Now I know with clarity this ship, however big, sometimes just needs a little push.
When the strongest of life’s waves shake you till you fall.
So don’t be afraid to show your heart and maybe just like me
when the waves of life crash over, you’ll find a voice to open up.


And the things you once considered weak, may one day be your strength.
And this heart you considered soft and fragile is the measure of it’s depth.
So when you find yourself in the storms of life and you cannot find your way,
don’t be afraid to pass the wheel that stirs your vessel,
to peace of mind upon the raging sea.


© Bernard Cunningham, 2023


This poem was first published by Pen to Print


(Lead photo by Szilvia Basso on Unsplash)