I have met them in dark alleys, limping and one-armed;   
I have seen them playing cards under a single light-bulb   
and tried to join in, but they refused me rudely,   
knowing I would only let them win.   
I have seen them in the foyers of theaters,   
coming back late from the interval   

long after the others have taken their seats,   
and in deserted shopping malls late at night,   
peering at things they can never buy,   
and I have found them wandering   
in a wood where I too have wandered.   

This morning I caught one;   
small and stupid, too slow to get away,   
it was only a promise I had made to myself once   
and then forgot, but it screamed and kicked at me   
and ran to join the others, who looked at me with reproach   
in their long, sad faces.
When I drew near them, they scurried away,   
even though they will sleep in my yard tonight.   
I hate them for their ingratitude,   
I who have kept countless promises,   
as dead now as Shakespeare’s children.   
“You bastards,” I scream,   
“you have to love me—I gave you life!”

  • David Kirby, “Broken Promises” from Big-Leg Music (Washington, DC: Orchises Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by David Kirby. Used by permission of the author.

  • Source: Big-Leg Music (Orchises Press, 1995)

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