The Rooster’s Crow

The Rooster’s Crow

This ekphrastic poem is based on Matthew 26:30-35 and Matthew 26:69-75 and the artwork of Keaton Sapp who has installed his fourth piece of the Stations of the Cross Lenten art exhibit. His drawing is titled, “The Denial.”  My poem came out as a rhyming triplet in iambic pentameter. (You receive what is given.)

In Keaton’s imagery, he uses the image of a fig leaf to symbolize Christ. You’ll see that imagery also reflected in the image of a fig tree and a fig. In his depiction of the fourth station, Christ is a leaf that is plucked and tossed aside by Peter’s denial. As I reflected on the piece what came out was Peter’s own judgment and the death of his own pride. I share this because that’s what the imagination sometimes does. It speculates and presents options as to meaning. Those options, sometimes go nowhere or can sadly lead us into error. Other times though, the imagination enriches our understanding.

You may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

By the time the rooster crowed, he told me,
A seasoned fisherman from Galilee,
That I would deny him not once, twice, but three.

Me! Always so cocksure confident; I
Said, “Never Lord, I will never deny;
These others might flee, but I’ll never fly!”

I admit I’m often wrong — never in doubt;
When just saying would do, I would shout;
I’d earn, deserve it, not take a handout.

Doubt settles in; I followed him here
Whose entrance on Sunday was praised and cheered;
He’s sheepishly silent before these shearers.

Here, a servant girl looks, notices me,
“You follow that teacher from Galilee!
Tell me true; you are one, you must be.”

“Really, I can’t imagine what you mean.”
When another girl says, “I know I’ve seen
You with the one they call the Nazarene.”

Green, my face pales. How could both
Servant girls know? Question my troth?
“I swear I don’t know him!” I give my oath.

I hear myself speak quick, reflexively,
“I do not know the man,” I say cooly.
“I don’t know him!” and add, “Truely!”

“Surely,” from the crowd another says,
“You’re from Galilee your accent betrays
You must be one those who follows the way.”

“Nay!” (overplayed) I shout, I vow:
“I swear, I told you, let judgment fall now
If I am one of his I don’t know how!”

Now, the third time, I’ll not forget the pain
As I called down a curse, the crowing began
And I stopped. I did not speak again.

And I denied him three times, made a show.
What he knew, I myself would come to know,
When judgment sounded with the rooster’s crow.

So, in th’ end pride plucked me off, pitched me down,
As shame swelled in waves with tears to drown
Broken to pieces, left lying on the ground.

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© Randall Edwards 2020.
This poem is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.
Artwork: © Keaton Sapp 2020, “The Rooster Crows” Pen and ink. All Rights Reserved.

Stuck Here

Stuck Here

One of my favorite scenes from the Divine Comedy takes place when Dante and Virgil arrive to the gates of the City of Dis. While crossing the river Styx, Dante is confronted by a wrathful soul who is wallowing in the muck and mire of that marsh. Dante recognizes the soul as that of Filippo Argenti an enemy of Dante’s from Florence who was likely responsible for Dante’s exile.

Dante records his words to Filippo, (Canto VIII of Mark Musa’s translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy) writing,

And then I said to him: “May you weep and wail,
stuck here in this place forever, you damned soul,
for, filthy as you are, I recognize you. ”

Apparently justified in his anger at the injustice, Dante is nevertheless not justified in holding on to his resentment. After this encounter Dante and Virgil are unable to pass through the gates of the City of Dis and are stuck there. Just as Filippo is stuck in wrath, Dante is stuck –unable to move forward, hung up in resentment, unable to let go and forgive.

Dante writes Virgil’s consoling words this way, and I find in them words which are a help to us who are stuck on our own roads, unable to go back or move forward. Virgil points Dante to this task: “feed your weary spirit with comfort and good hope.” I’ve taken this as Dante’s encouragement to us to take and feed upon the sacrament. Here is Christ’s body is our comfort and in the cup which he will only drink with us anew after resurrection is our good hope. Virgil’s words to Dante are,

“…Do not fear, the journey we are making
none can prevent: such power did decree it.

Wait here for me and feed your weary spirit
with comfort and good hope; you can be sure
I will not leave you in this underworld.”

With this he walks away. He leaves me here
the gentle father, and I stay, doubting, and battling
with my thoughts of “yes”–but “no.”

In this poem I attempt to imagine further Dante’s experience at the gates of the City of Dis, and I take a stab at Dante’s own terza rima in order to do so. If it’s helpful, you may listen to me read the poem via the player below.

Here I stand, battling these thoughts, “yes”—and “no.”
As fear floods, washes over, and through
“Oh, why did I take this journey below?”

Locked out by hate, furies bar the way into
The City of Dis through which my path lies,
And my guide has left me alone, withdrew.

Left alone. It is here I realize
That my anger, bitter discontentment
Is bound with Filippo whom I despise.

Though dead these many years I vowed vengeance
For the wound which cast me on this road,
Not a day passes without resentment.

Carrying cursing, my hard’ning heart’s load,
Is the gorgon by which I make myself stone
Demanding requite, of all that I’m owed.

This is my hell, condemned, stuck here alone.
I am caught, ensnared, hopeless for a way
Out of this mis’ry of hate, death, and bone.

A wordless poet with nothing to say
Can only trust the counsel of his guide
And though weary, not give into dismay.

He said my journey would not be denied
On comfort and good hope feed as I wait
I am not alone; see the bread and wine.

He will not leave me, but will liberate,
Will free me from chains, will unlock the door;
By his own descent, he will re-create

Off’ring the love never dared hope for.

© Randy Edwards 2017
Artwork: The Barque of Dante. 1822. oil on canvas. 189 × 241 cm (74.4 × 94.9 in). Paris, Musée du Louvre.