Child of Promise, by Laura Gail Grohe
The monsters are real.
Fear twists in the gut
and rides the shoulders,
reminding us to remain afraid.
This is how it has always been
when night walks where day once trod
and dawn is yet to come.
And this is why we gather, in twos and tens,
a family of blood and a tribe of love.
In the long ago, on a night like this,
a woman stands in the woods,
terrified by the creatures raging
just beyond the clearing’s edge.
Neighbors, friends, cousins, and her companion
flank her, their warmth holding off the thunderous cold.
Her hands rest on her massive belly
as she prays for the life about to leave the safety
of her body, to live beneath uncertain skies.
Further back in the stream of time
a man holds a baby, still slippery from birth, against his skin
as the baby uses its lungs for the very first time.
A stunning impossibility, this initial meeting
of father and child.
Were that child to fall,
were those tender lungs to fail,
there would be no descendants to create life,
and a family would drop from the stream of time.
On another night, before the easy reach of memory,
a baby is set beside a redwood sapling,
so many possibilities for failure:
heart, lungs, drought, fire,
a careless sibling looking away for just a moment,
and the future would be unwritten.
Even when the gates were smashed
and the livestock carried off,
even when fingers were snapped,
the child of promise survived,
and more than simply survived,
that child of promise grew until
the time came as he or she stared into the dark,
holding a small, fragile body skin to skin.
A new child of promise.
Now, as we light the fires to call back the sun,
let us also light the fire of memory.
Let us find the place in our bones that twists like a snake
and holds the thread passed from one man and one woman
to the child of promise.
Let this thread serve to tether us to those who came before,
who loved, and fought, and stayed alive
so that the promise that is each of us could be fulfilled.
When dawn finally cracks the night
and the sun takes back the land,
let us bless that twining tether
while we raise our faces to greet the new day.
[With author’s permission to be presented unchanged, with her name.]