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

temporary

credit – oikos blog

There is much in life that is temporary, despite our human desire to make it permanent. Think fleeting experiences like achievement, satiation, joy. Of course, the flip side is that grief, depression, anger are likewise temporary. Sometimes however the temporary can feel awfully permanent in spite of ourselves:

Sometimes it’s hard to awaken from a deep, deep rest,
the dense and soggy layers of sleep cocooning me
between pillow and quilt, oblivious to the sounds of day

and urgencies of pet eager for food, companion, relief.
Those heavy layers can pull me back, suck from me the energy to rise
willing me back to slumber, await the lightening of each layer peeled

by need and demand from my covered eyes
that will push me into the new day
open promises lining the way.

an ordinary day

Thanks to the Daily Challenge for the invitation to share this writing:

AN ORDINARY DAY

For ten days I lived the learning curve
of diabetes, partnering with my beloved son
to help his through maternal leave,
given the grace of time to relish
each extraordinary moment.

The first hour’s sing-song babbling
lifts from crib to giggled hugs and undercover
hide-and-seek en route to the day’s first blood glucose test
followed by calculations of insulin and carbs,
breakfast planned to even out
the hours to come.

This child, so gentle and joyful of spirit
accepts each poked finger and prodded thigh
with grace, a lesson I cannot fail to notice sets
the warp of our day through which we weave
our patterned way, each hour
a new adventure.

From Grandma’s blocks we build
to hold what he loved at the aquarium –
octopus by the elevator climbing glass walls,
his giant purple sac blowing up bigger then smaller
carefully reconstructed through his two-year
old imprint, giant tank within winding
ramp, sea lions sunning beyond.

He recalls with pride how he placed his hand
in the pool where flat rays swam shallow circles
requiring him to dip, lean and shriek with surprise
when the flappy gray surface floated beneath
outstretched fingers, feeling like velvet
fleet and brief, tickling his hand
again and again.

We chant the trains that took us there —
‘one train, two train, three train, blue train’
and back – ‘one train, two train, red train, bed train’
to test, insulin, lunch and rest. Later, we’ll
relive the adventure with Brio trains,
tunnels and bridges arcing us
back to the present.

Past supper the day’s reduced
to favorite books, moonlight and song
stories lingering among the family
of bears lining his crib, a round
of Dona Nobis Pacem circling
him in love’s embrace.

How the layers unfold like
an origami crane in flight; then settle
back to nest, each hour building bridges
between love and need, grace wrapping
itself around this wondrous gift
of an ordinary winter day.
swb ©2017

earthday greetings

'with all of life' by Deborah Koff-Chapin

‘with all of life’ by Deborah Koff-Chapin

Two of my favorite inspirations greeted me this Earth Day morning. First, Mary Oliver’s wonderful poem, thanks to Writer’s Almanac, resonated with me instantly as the only sane way to start the day. Immediately following,  Deborah Koff-Chapin’s hauntingly moving image in honor of the day. I just happened to see both first thing today!

Although I have been absent from this page for weeks, it is not for lack of inspiration; rather, for being awash in it. But the only way out is through – as true with managing inspiration as anything else, it seems. And so, in the spirit of moving forward gently, with presence and as much consciousness as we can muster, may you also begin your day thus.

I HAPPENED TO BE STANDING
by Mary Oliver

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance. A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep. Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why. And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t persuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t. That’s your business.
But I thought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air.

“I Happened To Be Standing” by Mary Oliver from A Thousand Mornings. © The Penguin Press, 2012.

PS Yes, I know, Earth Day was several days ago. However, it was while attempting to post this entry that I learned my site had been disabled. And it took most of the week to get it back online. Having put the time into this post after so long away, I decided to go ahead and share it with you. Besides — shouldn’t EVERY day be Earth Day?!!!