Saint Francis of Assisi

By W. S. Di Piero b. 1945
The View

The plain’s hatching now
after rainless months.

A dust devil rips
through a peach orchard

down there, a seam snuffed
by falling dust-fruit.

Behind the vine rows’
shriveled abundance

a low fire runs
ragged by the ditch,

flaying the pale sod.
The voided skins wave.

September, thirsting,
sings our Hosannah,

shrieks red poverties
to old heaven’s eye.

* * *

1944

You want February? Snow and sleet came down hard,
heaven’s post-Christmas gift to freeze our eyelids shut.
Walking the icy ground, our shoes all shot with holes,
we did the Alexander’s Army Ragtime Dance,
stomping snow off bones safely packed in newspapers.
From down below, we must have looked crazy happy,
dancing like Hollywood Indians, though who had
anything to eat? We dreamed lard. So the wolves came,
not straight into town, not into the piazza,
but near the outcrop behind the church. God’s design,
the best, the way they study the tired world
makes them next to human, or more. They’re waiting
while they move. I’d worship that expectancy.
If I could talk to one, just a few minutes,
he’d teach me hunger’s secrets. So one awful night
I wrapped my legs and feet, stuffed more papers inside
my pants and shirt, then danced my way behind the church.
Faint gray writing on the snow. Skin and bones, sneezes,
frost feathers, drifting away. Two of them walked back,
canny bigshot archbishop warrior types. They said:
The moon’s blue, we know you want secrets, help, advice,
news from this side. Our truth is: Forget likenesses,
live inside your carbon soul, the moon’s black and blue,
in the soul’s time the world’s one winter together.

* * *

Renunciation

The snowy poplar seeds are everywhere,
balling against curbs and car wheels,

sifting through gates, doorways, kitchen windows,
snagged by white blossoms shaken loose

from the nodding horse-chestnut leaves. We stand
in their shadows—our springtime’s dark.

The debris scrapes our cheeks, clings an instant
to our lashes, chokes the soft breath

before tumbling off the near precipice.
We want divine uncertainty.

O give us the Judas tree’s blood shadows,
make us sick with rank pear blossoms,

blind us with earth’s random pieces engorged
with broom’s milky fallen-sun flesh.

W. S. Di Piero, “Saint Francis of Assisi” from The Restorers (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992). Copyright © 1992 by W. S. Di Piero. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: The Restorers (The University of Chicago Press, 1992)

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Poet W. S. Di Piero b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Religion, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather, Christianity

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

 W. S. Di Piero

Biography

W.S. Di Piero was born in 1945 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned degrees from St. Joseph’s College and San Francisco State College. A poet, essayist, art critic, and translator, Di Piero has taught at institutions such as Northwestern University, Louisiana State University, and Stanford, where he is professor emeritus of English and on faculty in the prestigious Stegner Poetry Workshop. Elected to the American Academy of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather, Christianity

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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