and he came to the shore
While the crowd pressed in
And nets were being cleaned
And he espied two boats
Two empty boats on the spit
Boats being readied for the catch
And leaving the crowd behind
He waded into the shallows
Turned, and gazed upon me
Later there would be teaching
Later there would be fishing
Later there would be questions
Later there would be a catch
A legendary catch, and nets straining
Later would be talk of sin, and of hope
Later would come healings
And preaching and stories
Tales of wrongdoing, and wrongs righted
Later the crowds would adore him
Later they would mock, later spit
Later, and much too soon, would he die
But now he chose a boat, my empty boat
Water dripped from his foot as in he stepped
And the boat rocked gently on still waters
A meditation on events in Luke 5 and beyond.
It’s easy to forget how much of the Bible is about ordinary people caught up in the crucible of faith.
I like how this takes a moment on the cusp of a miracle and of discipleship, after which life will never be the same. It pauses at the great marvel, that Jesus could ever step into a fisherman’s boat. I know that soon the nets will teach that there is no limit to the salvation of the human soul. But even that, or the wonder of walking on water, pales before the everyday miracle of Christ’s presence on Earth. The last stanza is uniquely beautiful, like looking at a detail of a painting you know by heart. There is so much more to the recorded events of Scripture than the record itself.
I wondered about voice. “My” is 1st person, but 1st person is rarely so sweeping or calm. It’s almost like the Crucifixion that your lines look ahead to has already come to pass and its tumult been absorbed. Somehow the three-tined play on spit makes it more so.
I find the Bible deeply prevenient – in the form it is written and the story it tells. Peter’s faith will fail too and he will need forgiveness. When he lowers the nets in empty obedience and then is contrite for his lack of faith, it’s alwyas seemed to me that he’s forseein gthe future, or at least that the future is being rehearsed. Maybe I am imposing my thoughts and not hearing yours. I wonder what you were thinking when you wrote this and how you see the voice and consciousness of this poem.
The poem was originally written in the 3rd person, the result of a guided “Lectio Divina” meditation. As I was listening to the Scripture being read, I was visualizing the story — and the first thing that struck me was that, as Jesus stepped into Peter’s boat, it rocked slightly. Did Jesus “rock Peter’s boat?” Oh, yes. And more than just slightly. But in terms of historicity, most of that would come much later, as Peter didn’t initially “stick” with Jesus.
The following morning during personal meditation I returned to visualization of the passage, and that’s when the emptiness of the boat struck me, and the water dripping from Jesus’ foot. And the poem just sprang forth from that, and lots of questions about the intention of Jesus’ actions in this passage.
Later that day, I think it was, I reconsidered the POV. Years ago, I had played Peter in a Good Friday drama — so I carry a lot of his character inside of me. And it struck me that the original third-person POV was an unconscious attempt to keep that connection at a distance. So I reeled it in, and made it personal. As the poem was written to be read aloud, I thought that made it work much better.
In terms of your note about retrospective 3rd-person view: yes, the idea is that Peter is writing this much later, looking back on the event and revisiting it in his mind. And then he can see, as you note, “that the future is being rehearsed.”
Thanks for your note, Josie. It’s very gratifying to be read so well.