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

she just wants

source unknown – but I do wish I could have drawn this!

SHE JUST WANTS

She does not want to fit into anyone’s box.
She just wants to love the earth, her fingers deep in spring soil; to remain strong
and engaged; to let her words spill onto the page.
She doesn’t want a product to justify her day, or to defend or explain herself.
She just wants a walk by the lake, creativity in process, evening wine; to snuggle in front of a winter fire with a good book and her dog by her side.

She does not want to go forth into tumultuous throngs.
She just wants to touch the hearts of those few she calls friend, or to whom
she extends the pen of discovery.
She does not want to listen to discord or chaos.
She just wants to live simply, choose silence or animated conversation
or Bach cello suites.

She does not want additives, modifications, directives or exclusions.
She just wants to ensure the health and well-being of living earth and her creatures.
She does not want to see the world collapse around her offspring.
She just wants to speak up for what she believes, for what is morally right and just.

She does not want 50 years of social progress burned in one moment of fevered frenzy.
She just wants people to listen to/treat/learn from one another with respect.
She does not want self-serving skeptics to destroy natural connections.
She wants us to re-member our humanity and shared responsibility toward our world.

She does not want to live in division, hate, falsehood.
She just wants to lift up what is beautiful and true with.

She does not want it to end quite yet.

3.7.17 fastwrite in ‘writing outside’ group, prompted by ‘Employed,’
by Beverly Rollwagen, from She Just Wants. Nodin Press, 2004

spin – part 2

silent scream

touchdrawing by deborah koff-chapin

When I posted ‘spin – part 1 ,’ I had a long series in mind. In the days (weeks now) since, I have instead experienced a painful staunching of the throat. So filled with outrage at the sticky threads of injustice and untruth in the current political sphere (I cannot bring myself to say ‘discourse,’ though I long for it), my words have literally stuck in my throat. My hands are of no use. Everywhere I turn, I feel cliche. “Nice guys finish last.” “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” “What you don’t know, you make up.”

And I’m left holding so much inside that I cannot possibly express it all. Not in a lifetime. More to the point, I want so very desperately to DO something about all the silencing. For me, that’s what it comes down to.

One man’s spin is another’s silencing.

Images flood through me. From personal experience. From history. From popular culture… Marketers and mongers move messages. The hard workers, the deep thinkers, the ethical humanitarians, those motivated by compassion, truth and authenticity, those who understand that we are connected in this being human that we share – theirs are not the voices in the ‘news’ or the media. Meaning, it seems, is not a prime time value.

And why not? Because what actually needs to be done is not popular. Because the values that create change hold no commercial cache. Because some one needs to hold our world together while the angry ones rave. Because some of us would rather work on solving the long list of real issues facing us – ALL of us – rather than fomenting trumped-up fear by spinning the world around their own exaggerated axis.

freedom . . . with responsibility

Credit: socialdesigner

Credit: socialdesigner

Yesterday I could not write my weekly Friday post. There were no words. Instead I somewhat aimlessly scrolled through others’ posts, responding here and there. Today I am doubly challenged by what I have heard: sadness, of course. Prayers and solace for a reeling community. Also questions, blame, despair. And occasional reasoned cadences for change.

I have lost a child to a violent death. I have lived with an unpredictable head-of-household who harbored a gun, holding me hostage to fear. I am part of a family politically divided in the extreme whose love for one another transcends even those irreconcilable differences. I am by training and by temperament a change agent, a conscious feminine leader who strives by living example to hold the ever-growing paradoxes of both . . . and.

AND I am a lifelong adherent to ‘freedom with responsibility.’

Much of what I read yesterday railed at the failures of public education, our mental health system, public policy, politics.  It’s not a new concept that what created a problem can not be what ultimately fixes it. That’s because what is needed, at the point of so much brokenness, is a new approach. Old solutions have lost their resonance. As in not currently relevant.

I have neither the ability nor the space here to prescribe a plan for change that will fix everything. But I do have an observation I feel we would all to well to take to heart.freedom-responsibiity quote

We are in this together. What happened in Newtown could happen, has happened, in Anywhere, USA. There is no blame that doesn’t come round to include us, each and every one. It is our mindset that underlies the essential challenges of communicating and working toward real, viable and sustainable change.

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