Robert Bly

The Old St. Peter by Rembrandt

Noah’s ship does not sail with its elephants forever. 
The crying of the monkeys breaks off and starts again. 
Even shame does not last a whole lifetime.

“It was dark,” Peter said. “We were alone. We had 
A single candle which shone on the steel breastplate 
Of the Roman soldier. The whole town was asleep.”

We are bubbles on the lips of our friends.
Each time they turn their heads, we drift toward the Pole; 
We pass into the Many and return.

Who can say, “With God, the rest is nothing?” 
Who can say, “I am a grandchild of he unfaithful?” 
Who is able to wait one month to drink water?

We fell into weeping yesterday at five o’clock. 
We wept because slavery has returned; we wept 
Because the whole century has been a defeat.

Oh Peter! Peter! The night behind you is black.
A beam of light falls on your outworn face.
What can you do but lift up your hand for forgiveness?