The Firmness of Rock (Lent Poems 38)

I.
All night we’d been fishing
Though the sea was dry and our nets empty,
And all our local knowledge told us only
That we were fresh out of luck.
Then the stranger came and bolstered his way
Into our ears: Put your nets, he said, on the other side.
Raving mad, or foolish, his steady stare compelled me
To believe him, or else keep the madness at bay.
Only, the nets filled to breaking and,
As we called to our partner boats to come help us,
The stranger’s face – so calm, so sure – caught
My soul with his hook and would not let go.
Leave your nets, he said, on the shore.
I will show you how to fish for men.
His words were lulling nonsense in my ears
Yet I would have gone to Rome at his slightest word.
From now on you’ll be Peter, he said, and there
On the coast stood a rock, so steady and proud.
The waves crashed now and then against it and yet
The rock remained firm.
II.
All night we’d been fishing
Though the sea offered up no fruit for our labour.
Rock-stubborn, I pushed on, though all
My broken knowledge said I was out of favour.
Then the stranger called, from the shore:
Throw your nets on the other side.
Inside me I felt the hook twinge and his
Steady stare compelled me to obey.
And soon the nets were full enough to break
Our backs as we hauled them onto the shore!
And, breaking bread there, the stranger
Met our eyes, and we knew him: a stranger no more.
Simon, son of John, do you love me? He prodded, so gently,
Three times, made me shout three times out
What the rooster heard me three times deny.
Each time, the same, certain reply:
Feed my lambs. By the shore stood a rock,
Firmly grounded. I looked from the rock back to him,
And his gaze did not flinch in its unerring grace.
It held me firmly in his stead.

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