How in that early Christian air,
that morning light, the angel of the Lord spoke clear
as a neighbor might: saying to Peter, "Gird thyself...and follow me,"
and, "Be not afraid, but speak," to Paul; instructing Ananias
to leave at once for the street called Straight, and ordering Philip
in the Gaza way to approach and address that other man, the Ethiopian
pondering his book, and so to convert him, then and there,
to the truth he sought.
Arise! Say this! Return! Go hence!
How quick the word! How strong and exact!
on a Joppa housetop, in a prison cell, or out on the rough Damascus road
in a dazzle of dust. And how these men—centurion—apostle—
all of them—not made-up persons in a hallowed tale, but people
real as any of us, with cousins, and nephews, and friends who must
have been much put out by what occurred—these ordinary men
washing their hands, and breaking bread, and traveling about
to Corinth, Jerusalem, Ephesus—
how they heard! How they heard!
as if it were no more strange to hear an angel's speech
than the song of a bird. And how, each time, what they received
was no soft thing: no kind permission to stop short—to rest content
with an increased flock, or more fish, or even their own once-barren
tree now rich again in the sun with figs. They were not told
in the Book we read, "What you have so far said and done
is enough to expect from anyone."