Hospitality / Jesse K. Butler
This valley, where you called me, and I came,
is cold tonight. A sharp wind whips my coat
and stings my eyes. I squint through burning tears
to see the land, the pulsing hills of grass,
you promised to me long ago. I wait
here in a place I live but cannot claim.
When you first called me from my father’s house,
I overturned my life to follow you.
I was still young and hungry for your presence.
I’m old now, but the hunger is the same.
You gave me little glimpses, years apart.
a conversation underneath bright stars
that seemed austere, untouchable and cold,
a promise. When more recently you came,
a man but so much more, you filled my doorway.
You bowed your head to enter, but the frame
still bulged and bent, and strained just to receive you.
My table groaned, inadequate to serve you.
I ran and chose a fattened calf to offer.
I butchered it and roasted it myself,
my clothes all damp with sweat. I feared the food
I served would turn to ashes on your tongue.
My richest feast could no more hope to feed you
than dripping fat could satisfy the flame.
You ate it anyway. I grew confused:
was it one man or three that sat before me?
I wasn’t sure who hosted whom – your mercy
expanding to embrace my feeble shame.
Our generations rise and fall before you
like surging waves run through the fields of grass
beneath this violent wind. Our conversation
has just begun. My lifetime was a greeting.
I’ll wait out my slow days here for your answer,
here in a place I live but cannot claim –
this valley, where you called me, and I came –
and hope for when my children’s children’s children,
some distant day, will get to hear your name.
Jesse K. Butler lives with his wife and two children in Ottawa, Ontario. He recently completed a PhD in Education, which led to his current work in the Canadian civil service. His eclectic education has also included an MA in English Language and Literature and a BA in Liberal Arts. His lifelong exploration of poetic form is grounded in his experience of the life of faith: a guiding structure that opens up new possibilities for freedom.
Hospitality: Copyright 2021 by Jesse K. Butler. All rights reserved.
3 thoughts on “Hospitality”
Wow, I love this. It even gave me goosebumps. Would love to hear you read it. (or is it, recite when referring to a poem?)
Thanks, Helen! So glad you enjoyed it. I’m not in the habit of giving readings, but I’m sure we could arrange something (if you don’t mind toddlers yelling in the background).
Absolutely beautiful. I cried!
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