Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday's Poem: St. Peter at the Gate

As told by Francis Colbert

St. Peter stood guard at the Golden Gate,
With a solemn face and an air sedate.
When up to the top of the golden stair,
A man and a woman ascended there.

They applied for admission, they came and stood,
Before St. Peter so great and good,
In hopes the city of peace to win,
And to see if St. Peter would let them in.

Now, the woman was long, she was lank, she was thin,
And she had a scraggly beard growed on her chin.
But the man was short and pale and stout,
And his features was built so it rounded out.

His face was pleasant and all the while,
He wore a kind and pleasant smile.
Music in the distance, echoes awoke,
And the Man stood still but the woman spoke.

"Oh, thou who guards the Gate," said she,
"We two come hither beseeching thee,
To let us enter that heavenly land,
And play our harps with the angel band.

"Of me, St. Peter, there is no doubt,
There's nothing in Heaven can bar me out.
I've been to meetings three times a week,
And almost always I'd rise and speak.

"I've told the sinners about the day
When they'd repent of their evil way.
"I've told my neighbours, I've told them all,
About Adam and Eve and the primal fall.

I've shown them what they must say and do,
If they'd pass in with the chosen few.
"I've talked to them loud and I've talked to them long,
For my lungs are good and my voice is strong
And so, St. Peter, you'll clearly see,
The Gates of Heaven is open to me.

"But my old man, I regret to say,
He hasn't followed exactly the narrow way.
He cursed, he smoked, great faults he got,
And I don't know whether he'll pass or not.

"He never would pray with an earnest vim,
Or go to revival or join in a hymn,
And I had to leave him in sorrow there,
While I, with the chosen, united in prayer.

"He ate what the pantry chanced to afford,
While I, in my purity, I sang to God,
And if cucumbers was all he got,
It's a chance whether he merited them or not.

"But oh, St. Peter, I love him so.
To the pleasures of Heaven now let him go.
I've been enough of a saint, I've been.
Won't that atone, can't you let him in?

"By my grim gospel, I know 'tis so,
That the unrepentant must try below.
But isn't there someway that you can see,
That he may enter who's dear to me.

"It's a narrow gospel by which I pray,
Yet the chosen expects to find some way,
Of coaxing, of fooling, of bribing you,
So that their relations can amble through.

"And say, St. Peter, my sight is dim.
I don't like the way that your whiskers are trimmed.
They're cut too narrow and outward tossed.
I'd like them much better cut straight across.
But we got to be going, our crown to win,
So open, St. Peter, and we'll pass in."

St. Peter stood still and he stroked his staff,
And in spite of his office he had to laugh.
Then he said with a firey gleam in his eye,
"Who's tending the Gate woman, you or I?"

Then he rose himself to his stature tall,
And he pressed a button up on the wall,
And he said to an imp who came all aglow,
"Accompany this woman down below."

Now, the man stood still as if turned to stone,
Stood silent, gloomy, there alone.
Now a lifelong settled idea he had,
That his wife was good and he was bad.

Now, if the woman had to go down below,
There he most certainly would have to go.
That if she went to the regions dim,
There wasn't a ghost of a chance for him.

And slowly he turned, by habit bent,
To follow wherever the woman went.
St. Peter, standing on duty there,
He observed that the crown of his head was bare.

Calling him back, to the gentleman said,
"Friend, how long have you been wed?"
"Thirty years," with a heavy sigh,
Then he thought, for he added, "Why?"

St. Peter was silent, with head bent down,
He thought a bit then he scratched his crown.
Then seeming a different thought to take,
Slowly, half to himself, he spake.

"Thirty years with that woman there,
No wonder the man lost all his hair.
Smoking is bad, cursing is no good.
Well, he cursed and smoked, I should think he would.

"Thirty years with a tongue so sharp.
Say, Angel Gabriel, give him a harp.
Give him a harp with golden strings.
Pass in, good sir, where the angels sings.

"See that on the finest of food he feeds.
He's had about all the hell that he needs.
Doesn't seem the right thing to do,
To roast him on earth and hereafter too.

"Gabriel, give him a seat alone,
One with a cushion up near the throne.
Call up some angels to play their best,
And let him enjoy the food and rest."

So they gave him a harp with golden strings,
And a glittering sword and a pair of wings.
And he said, as he entered the light of day,
"Well, this beats cucumbers anyway."

And so the Scripture has come to pass,
That the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Transcribed by Kelly Russell here

1 comment:

  1. This was one of my mother's favorite poems. Gladys Buford died on June 28, 2013, in Torrance, CA, at the age of 104. She was a beautiful black woman and her family celebrates her life.