Lynn Strongin
Saint Francis On A Dark Day

                                One can tell a bird by its feathers.


Air dark as an oiled flute
a brown wood room with a flame burning
St Francis
in the library on a sombre day.

We put things to our own use:

He turns
on a dais
on a ruin-colored noon.

Eyes incandescent. Conversation
weaving back & forth between him & me like two at a shuttle:

The cloth above our shimmering, shivering
Saint Vitus-dance
bluegray. Does he compose canticles at a right angle to all others?

I got married in worsted.
Illness often a goad to spirituality
The capstone of boyhood-

girlhood for me or was I really a boy?
My twelfth summer.
Icarian, I flew too near the sun & bore a shoulder-scar.

Young St Francis in his youth
longed for lustre, glory
all which he later despised.

Both he and I had a dream
only possible in the Middle Ages:
Sapphires, rubies, caskets, a library in jewel colors, illuminated manuscripts
Then the metallic black of crows' wings
took light
large recurring glance

A lung-clash         frail boy with illness of the lungs

a strong girl
affliction of the central nervous system.

Here on earth life is torture.
He went toward lepers
whose faces were an open sore

& kissed them.
When I was twelve
folk stopped mother to say

have her eat
off the roots
off the ground

bathe her in dirty dishwater:
that was down

A Christian Science Practitioner
took me under her wing
(for bucks.) Said “Today's the day you'll have your demonstration.”

an imaginative girl
I worked myself into a frenzy focusing on walking again.


people stopping me wheeling up the glassy pavement

“Don't' you want an umbrella?
What vivid stockings.”:
Flashy as a tart I can stop traffic with them.

Struggling down a bank ramp
another “friend”?
called out, “I have my surgery on the 22nd.”

“Good luck”
I flung over my shoulder
like confetti at a wedding. Only I'd use birdseed.
I imagined
pale birds
fluttering from their prison bars to his hand.

Of Assisi
he returned
clothier's son

who stole all the clothing.
I steal

all the wit I can
knowing good poets do not borrow
but steal

yet arrive home
to more crybabies;
“My Avon catalogue was stolen.”

“I have a splitting headache from the perfume.”
Lucky enough to have perfume light
bathe a town

she is
I close the door my wheels & gloves dripping like wet feathers
to the bath. Tears.


The story is no childish fable
but appeals
to the simple.

John of Gaunt's mistress' was Kathryn Swynford.
Redhaired largbeasted
was the lord

after a cocky
in which his charms, midsize were winning

but his eyes
were incendiary.
As for me,

I too harbored
an unearthly joy.
Do I truly believe I am Emily

in puritan gray?

Most days.
But how can I say

a word
about what's holy
without tainting it?

I love those
who read me
yet still are hungry.

I would not turn
a page

nor turn
a wren

             St Francis
             St Francis
             (did I not pray during treatments
on plinths
             being ambulanced from hospital to hospital
             on a gurney

             like lighting
             candle after candle
             heart-surgery after heart-surgery?)

Time for a nap:
lie on a scaffold like Michelangelo
under the ceiling.
                            In this single dark room with a flame burning
                            library with speckled books like fawns
                            on a dark day-Be with me.