The Promise

The Promise / Jesse K. Butler

At each new time you turn away and leave
us here beneath the fallout of your promise,
there’s something new that’s lost. Now it’s my sight
that fades before me day by day. My sons
are lost in their resentments, while their birthright
decays unclaimed. I sit here in the dark,
alone, my life now used up waiting for
a word that never came. My trembling hands
are empty. Somehow still it always seems
there’s some new loss to gather up and grieve.

My father’s gone now too. I’ve always felt
that something cracked inside him on that mountain,
while I lay there upon his makeshift altar,
hogtied and terrified. He spoke to you—
I only heard half of the conversation—
and somehow seemed to earn us a reprieve.
I memorized him, lying in his shadow:
His knuckles white around the knife. His eyes
so full of faith and terror and resolve.
The secret tears he smeared into his sleeve.

I have been faithful. Anything you said
to do I did. You never did say much.
And each new time you turn away and leave,
I sit here, with the darkness weighing in,
and sift among the shards left of your promise
for some new loss to gather up and grieve.
My birthright spent. My fractured father. My
embittered sons, both chosen and unchosen.
And this undying struggle—to believe
your grace is bigger than what we receive.


The Promise: Copyright 2021 by Jesse K. Butler. All rights reserved.

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