This Hour and What Is Dead
How we cite our quotes:
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven. […] (16-18)
Love isn't perfect, and that's something our speaker knows well. Through this image, he acknowledges that his father, in the way he loved his children, had his faults. Maybe the man could be overbearing ("too much thread") and inconsistent ("the stitching uneven").
[…] But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand. (18-19)
His father's love might be imperfect, but it sure is powerful. Could it even be all the more powerful for its imperfections? A perfect love would be a general ideal. This imperfect love, on the other hand, is specific to his father. It's the same as how we come to love the little faults and oddities of the people we love. That mole or lisp or tendency to quote Kung Fu movies becomes part of what defines a person as that person, and no one else. It's what makes them special.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water. (27-28)
God's love, as our speaker tells it, feels like it comes at you from three directions at once. All three of these images imply movement and action. The fire is burning, the doves are flying, the water is running. Again we see that love can be complicated, even contradictory (it can feel like fire as well as water).