St. Peter and the Angel

St. Peter and the Angel


Delivered out of raw continual pain,

smell of darkness, groans of those others

to whom he was chained–


unchained, and led

past the sleepers,

door after door silently opening–


And along a long street’s

majestic emptiness under the moon:

one hand on the angel’s shoulder, one

feeling the air before him,

eyes open but fixed…


And not till he saw the angel had left him,

alone and free to resume

the ecstatic, dangerous, wearisome roads of

what he had still to do,

not till then did he recognize

this was no dream. More frightening

than arrest, than being chained to his warders:

he could hear his own footsteps suddenly.

Had the angel’s feet

made any sound? He could not recall.

No one had missed him, no one was in pursuit.

He himself must be

the key, now, to the next door,

the next terrors of freedom and joy.


Denise Levertov

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