Magazine May 4, 2020, Issue

Peter

(Mohammed Salem/Reuters)

In sleep and half-sleep
(Which is most of time),
His nature shifts for me:
Stunted — unwolfed — sublime;

He is a thug, a plaything,
Or we never found him,
And he’s thin air,
Our hopefulness around him.

He crowds us jealously,
Snaps at our friend;
He pledges sacrifice
Clear to the end,

Then cowers at incursions.
As we goof around the boat,
He springs to rescue us, and flounders
In booties and a coat.

Who is this idiot?
And yet the mission
He heads against our tears —
Whose was this vision?

Who paid the price
To rescue him, who cast
The dice against
His worthlessness at last?

Who teased and humanized him
With that name?
He keeps it, though —
The one with which he …

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Sarah Ruden’s most recent books are the extensively revised second edition of her Aeneid translation and her new translation of the Gospels.

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