Broken Promises

By David Kirby b. 1944 David Kirby
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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Poet David Kirby b. 1944

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure

 David  Kirby


Poet, critic, and scholar David Kirby grew up on a farm in southern Louisiana. He received a BA from Louisiana State University and, at the age of 24, a PhD from Johns Hopkins University. Influenced by artists as diverse as John Keats and Little Richard, Kirby writes distinctive long-lined narrative poems that braid together high and popular culture, personal memory, philosophy, and humor. “One thing that I want to do in the . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Disappointment & Failure

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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