Issue 154, Spring 2000
And the beating almost over, and morning's cry
Yet to be heard by the workmen in the courtyard
Warming themselves by the hasty fire, and Peter,
Near the agony in the garden, feeling something
Terrible happening, blinking back stale sleep,
Peter turns his face from strangers' stares.
"This man also was with Jesus." Then others
Slowly turning toward him with cold interest.
And his own voice, thick-tongued: "I do not know him."
That the cock crows at the third denial
Tells us much about the nature of faith.
How it leans on separations, how it robes simple
Gestures—a hand waving from an open window—
With deferral, as if real knowledge only comes after.
As though Peter could only see what he'd done
Upon going from the high priest's courtyard
And, alone, weeping bitterly in the dawn.
That much we can understand, but why then
Does Chekhov revisit this known, hard ground
With a barefoot student who, on his way back
From a failed hunt, thinks how the same chill
Easter wind must have blown in Rurik's age
And scourged the hungry poor in the years
Of Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible?
Wind, wind, hunger, icy needles of rain . . .
The same as then—until, coming on two widows,
A huge, shapeless old woman in a man's overcoat
And her putty-faced daughter washing a kettle.
The student asks if he might share their fire.