Poem: The Only Promise I Could Make

Craggy mountain outcropping

I could not build you a castle of pearl.
I don’t shine like Gabriel. We’re all
of the earth. There’s nothing indestructible
inside us but love.

I couldn’t promise
that your eyes
would forget what it’s like to weep.
I couldn’t promise
health, gold or untroubled sleep.
Time runs and overcomes,
breaking all levees,
flooding all homes.

All I could ever promise
was love like a cougar’s heart.
A love that would flow ceaselessly
like the wind on the American prairie.
Two heartbeats in the light and the black,
never turning back,
though the world might burn and crash
around us.

If a young couple, married and in love,
held hands
in the siege of Sarajevo,
with snipers’ bullets
hammering from the hills above
carrying leaden death –

If those lovers shared breath
and promised a passion that would survive all –
even the awful crimes
done to those proud people –
and if they made that promise
out of the knowledge that comes
with a mountain of grief – a promise
deeper than the bosom of the earth –

If such a thing happened,
then sweet one, that’s how I loved you.

Come war or wind, tar or the tumble of stones,
I’d have been yours, your hand in mine,
and everything I ever had
laid on the line
for you.

* * *

Wael Abdelgawad
April 2010
Fresno, California

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