St. Francis

Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi, Italy


In the month of October we remember Francis of Assisi, the saint who answered Christ’s call to “repair my church.” Above all, St. Francis stands as one who … boldly challenged a world obsessed with power and status, and a church that conformed to such values. Those today who pursue the cause of peace, who stand with the poor, who engage in respectful dialogue with other faiths, or defend the Earth and its creatures, are following in Francis’ path … a way of kindness, gentleness, and humility that could truly repair our world, which is evidently falling into ruin.

This appeared in my inbox this morning from Orbis Books, the publisher of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write which I co-edited in 2013. By coincidence, earlier this week I received a copy of Colere, A Journal of Cultural Exploration published annually by Coe College. They just published my poem, ‘The Tomb of St. Francis.’

Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi at the Basilica

The Tomb of St. Francis
Assisi, Italy

They come, pilgrims of every shade
in bright red-orange prints, with canes
their grayed heads bound in matching cloth
eyes encased in winkled brown.

Dread-locked youth, his lengths spilling
over dirty blond pack as he kneels,
falls to the stone step marking
the edge of adoration for the deceased.

A lanky dark-haired youth
in plain white tee and tattered jeans
pulls the iron grate tight to heaving chest
entwines hand, arm, head bowed in prayer;

then rises, damp-eyed, whispers, croons,
his body speaking anguish, joy
at this momentous meeting
faith and love lived large

as his beloved Saint before him,
example of the living word
that permeates the air, the bones
of ancient-walled Assisi.

‘The Tomb of St. Francis’ by Sarah W. Bartlett, in Colere Journal of Cultural Exploration, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA, 2018

new poem acceptance


Dos Gatos Press is releasing its third POETRY OF THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST anthology early in 2018. Each poem in this new collection is precisely 100 words long. And they accepted my “Lonesome Boy-Cow,” inspired by our spring trip to Taos and a breath-taking sunset drive toward the mountains.

In accepting the poem, one of the editors wrote: “Sarah, we LOVE THE DESERT SCENE HERE.’

Moreover, following a brief interaction resulting in a modest tweak of the title and one word, he wrote “It is such a pleasure to work with writers who don’t get defensive (and aggressive) with an editor.”

Gotta say, I don’t generally get this kind of feedback from editors. You can imagine I was equally appreciative in my responses. A feel-good day all around.


ng-blowing-bubbles-for-paulIt is becoming increasingly clear that I’ll never catch up with all the Daily Post prompts I’ve missed this fall – despite keeping a running list and my best intentions. Instead, I’ll insinuate the first four of December into a single reflection. See if you agree that I’ve hit upon echo, relax, panoply and sacred  – without ever naming any one of these things outright!!

[Full Disclosure: The initial inspiration for my writing came from Gary Johnson’s poem, ‘December:’  my hopes and fears are met/In this small singer holding onto my hand.]


My hopes (and fears) are met
in this small singer
the one snuggled into my neck
begging ‘baby song, baby song!’

and later, sprawled across my lap,
more song, OK’ his nodded approval
wide as any door of hope embracing
the rhythms and modulations of comfort

and blessed joy, myriad notes
running up scale and down, harmonies
and rounds joining the balance of us
in heartfelt song no matter the season.

It is song that holds my hopes
met in this small child, son of my son,
who gently strokes my head,
the ‘ruff’ cast on my arm, his blue eyes

saucer size gazing right into mine
with concern only a toddler can beam
an ancient knowing shared with the dog
to whom he patiently reads ‘Ginger Boy’

helpfully explaining its pictures
in single syllables to the baffled dog,
the young boy charmed at having mastered
the flow of the tale, its lines a music

of its own, rhythm and cadence
lilting through his just-learning-words
speech that rises and falls with his grasp
of a phrase returning from his mouth to the air

among bubbles rising from soapy hands
and the breathy support of elders circled
and circling this golden boy, our hopes
far outweighing our fears.

We’ll stick with the hopes, thanks
to the sweet voice of request and laughter,
the sing-song renditions of spiders and rowboats
an entire world unfolding from A to Z

through song and story by this young singer
holding my hand, and my heart.

swb, 12.1.16

mid winter



If winter is the wide ocean of night
February is the trough that holds visions
deep within its icy caverns, deeper than sight

and frozen in flight from dark to light,
the midpoint arising into life, questions
forming purpled plots of flowering earth

raised beds of awareness plumbing the depths
of heart, pulsing not in vain
but through the hard-working hands of time

that freed both animal and soul, flesh and spirit
as one seeds bursting open to receive
the blessings of a softening earth, a yielding

spirit, a desire for growth and transformation
into a new cycle of growth, becoming
firmer rooted that it may reach higher,

broader, embrace the tomorrows
that today sleep a season’s slumber,
silent and unseen deep in the cave

of mid-winter, the light resting
‘til the wheel spins its slow way round
another spring beckoning forth.


review of the Aurorean


My poem, “Stella O’Oro,” is in this issue.

“Each contributor delves into horticultural ecstasy as they wander the forest in the soft rain, beholding arboreal splendor and hearing bird calls above. An old cynic may smirk at all this but eventually it seduces him. There is something in immersing oneself in nature’s realm that lowers the blood pressure and convinces one that there is a higher immanence in our lives…Each poet of the 76 included vibrates in the same harmonic. They have their individual styles but all fall into this mystic congruence… The Aurorean brings to mind the scent of the forests of the Northeast, their quiet beauties, the poetry of nature itself. A good thing to specialize in and a very rewarding publication.”
–  Arnold Skemer, Editor/Publisher Phrygian Press, for Small Press Review