Keeping Promises

The ram’s horn bellowed.
Fused with snapped spears and hatchet heads
nicked shields covered the field,

recruits stacked dented helmets
and dirtied swords. Arms sprung
up and neck bared he stepped over men.

Weeks before he had quipped victory
to the senate elders and later whispered
bargains, eyes closed, nose-length from the floor:

to pyre some wildebeest or whatever he saw first.
He chuckled at the thought of gourds
or melons rolling down the hill,

while they piled the dead before sunset.
What blasphemy, his neighbors would cheek,
to offer fruits and vegetables.

Ram’s horn slung, he marched home,
sweating out the dying sounds of younger men,
musing, that old bull not fit to feed us grazes

in the closer pasture. He hoped.
His arms sprung up to embrace,
“Hello, my only daughter!” died in his mouth.

As victor Jeptha made no more vows.

John Gosslee attends Liberty University, where he is the poetry reader for The LAMP.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2009
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