Promises Broken Promises Made

Dry for a day,
maybe two,
then
like an anxious ticket holder,
he waits for the clatter
of train on a track,
and he’s back
on the Jack Daniel express.

Promises made, promises broken.

The thirst is deaf
to the cries of his children,
their tears are like
rain on the window,
a blur
a dull sound
against the pane.

Promises broken, promises made.

One drink, then another,
and another,
‘till he’s free
from the unbearable
transition
of sobriety’s salvation,
the jitters
the shakes
delirium
and dread,

        They fade

when the fare is paid,
devotion demonstrated,
and like Abraham
with Isaac under a blade,
he offer up the rent,
the food,
their shoes in winter.

There is no angel with a ram
to stay his hand
from the slender bottle
that he empties
with supplicant gulps,
of bitter anguish.

The venomous viper
courses down his throat.

He waits impatiently
for guilt to subside
and the intoxicant
to take away his sins.
Remorse is for tomorrow.

Plunged, into the amber blood of his savior,
the solution that brings absolution,
the unholy Eucharist
led by a spirit
that lulls him into numbness.
Finally,
he no more needs to drink.

His eyes fall heavy,
his body
melts into slumber,
he is suspended
in blissful silence—
that somewhere,
where nothing matters
and the soul
no longer stings,
where the question
of love deserved,
is washed away.

If they’re lucky,
he finds a bed,
a bench,
a floor to sleep it off,
and not a slab
at the city morgue
or a view from a jail-room door
and a Monday morning Judge
who sets a bail
they can’t afford
but do—
because he clocks in at two.

Lunchbox in hand,
his sober ears ring loud
with the church bell tolls
of mother’s pleas
of, “Please no more.”

And like the sound of a sad violin
the overwhelming guilt
sings its pitiful promise:
this time I’ll
quit, this
time
I’ll quit, this
time I’ll
quit
this time

 

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