William F Dougherty

(West Hartford, CT)

A Promise to Keep (Update.)


Words are for those with promises to keep. — W.H. Auden

I promised her the garden's glory:
marigold's monarchal blooms,
ageratum's lavender fuzz, the
grainy beards of coxcombs' plumes;
sturdy zinnias, salvia's flames,
snapdragons, and tiger lilies: raw
cuttings from home to grace a stone
in final, promissory awe.

Crystal-needled frost struck and drained
the promised flowers brown; left them
in rows of shriveled heads to nod
on gallows of each blackened stem.
I bought chrysanthemums and filled
her navy vase with bronze and gold
clusters to decorate the grave—
my quaking hand let slip its hold.

The vase discharged against a stone
and shattered, as if the cobalt night
had cracked again: the fragments gemmed
my gold bouquet with bluish light.
The flowers lost—love left unsaid—
planted in my repentant sleep
the seeds to start a garden of words
where love and promises will keep.


(Re-worded published in 'The Lyric.' Fall,2012.
Earlier versions appeared in 'Owl Light, and
'Poems: New & Used.')

Who's Who in Poetry 2012 (page 1)

Submitted: Friday, January 21, 2011
Edited: Thursday, February 21, 2013

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Comments about this poem (A Promise to Keep (Update.) by William F Dougherty )

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  • William F Dougherty (7/13/2012 12:33:00 PM)

    The epigraph from Auden takes on predictive meaning.
    His poem said that words should be with-held from flowers
    and birds because-quote. (Report) Reply

  • William F Dougherty (5/28/2012 1:29:00 PM)

    Shahzia:

    Yes. Signal poem about mother's sudden death. Did replant garden. Discovered she had saved my college
    poems, therefore- (Report) Reply

  • Shahzia Batool (5/28/2012 1:09:00 PM)

    interesting poem with a gradual movement...1st stanza is rich in promises n tall claims....beautiful anti-climactic ending....with a heightened effect... (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh Rai (4/1/2012 9:55:00 PM)

    the seeds to start a garden of words
    where love and promises, keep.
    I like the poem and its flow. (Report) Reply

Read all 4 comments »

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