“sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness” – a poem about St Francis by Galway Kinnell
This Lent I am running a mini course introducing the life of St Francis of Assisi. I have deliberately decided to run the course on a Tuesday night after our said Eucharist so that the homily at the Eucharist can also be on an aspect of St Francis’ life.
Many of us have images of St Francis as being a kind of saintly Doctor Dolittle – my abiding image of him is from my Ladybird Book of the Saints (pictured). Although St Francis did have a great love of creation and creatures (not a love of ‘nature’ as we might say) he was not particularly wet in character as many of the images we see of him now seem to convey.
I recently found this beautiful poem by Galway Kinnell (in the book Soul Food) which for me encapsulates Francis’ love for all living things in a way that is not sentimental or wet but powerful and moving. I will read this poem at the service tonight.
Saint Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.