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Brother Francis to Brother Leone

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In my dream I watched it
from a windowsill Come see this
raptor’s shadow hushed
down green-brick tenements
Bulk beak and feather struck
and tumbled aslant the air
with sparrow or chimney swift
Wilderness breathes wherever
we are and headed to O’Hare
late fall I saw on its vague
bare branch a goshawk
grace yes and auspicious terror
I should watch with him
I should be poorer than
any wing of the air

If you could have seen
(this is a different story)
above us cloud studies
out of Constable
Pescadero’s sandstone cliffs
steeped and chewed by tides
I held Brother Antonio’s hand
so afraid was he the cliff
would crumble What was that?
as if what then came had
already happened the osprey’s
sea-foam breast
sign we said of the Holy Spirit
pounding the wind
Lift and save us it stormed
up beneath our feet
Alone in Inverness
I saw a kestral stop
in the blue and stoop
and icy blowtorch points
pecked my hands and feet
blood frothed from my side

Closer now my minders
watch and bear with me
while I’m walking barefoot
through a Tucson suburb
mesquite and prickly pear
a young peregrine
surveils me from the eye
of midmorning’s sun
Last night Easter Saturday
I saw a deer enter
a bare-chested Yaqui ancient
who obeyed the dance
danced through him the poor
we think aren’t with us
everywhere the deer-dancer’s
concrete ramada beside the freeway
and reservation projects

Brother Ash
the less I become of what
God made me the more real
I am in His heart
Let durable goods be ashes
to pour on our heads
Brother Wing
keep me in my place
on lower Market Street
with that bare-chested man
bird of beautiful want
speechifying clothed
in chaps rat-food blanket
and cherry running shoes
Lady Poverty at his side
I walked Avenue A
knee-deep in crows spirits
of murderers and suicides
croaking Whatever’s given
I’ll take away
Drenched in a Jersey storm
I tried to send my spirit
to God my core my sphere
I asked the hawk Who are you?
but in some nameless place
doubled-up overcoats pushed
oxcarts past me through mud
and hungry gray children
ate their cardboard name tags
Keep and bless such images
of our own killing kind?
Buzzards slice the silence
over our heads waiting
for us their food song
How little it takes to complete
a world to find what suffices
To Brother Fire I offer
our endless poor-men’s wars
our starved ruined planet
song of thrush and whitethroat
beaks of meaningless fire
piercing our hands and feet
and offer wealth to Brother Ash
and waste of blood to Brother Rag.


The editors of Poetry magazine have paired the following prose quotations from City Dog: Essays by W.S. Di Piero with this poem:

It’s probably my deepest political conviction that there is in the things of the world an essential stilled singularity that cannot be expropriated even by the mastering forms of the imagination. The enchantments of representation are not true magic. Poetry doesn’t transform the world, it embodies the particular acts and feelings of being in the world. The things of the world resist words and wordiness.

My instinct is the still childish one of taking what’s given in language and breaking it up into phonetic pieces, syllable amulets, each loaded with some nuance of actual or desired feeling and the pied, scattered clues of sense.

“Brother Francis to Brother Leone” from Brother Fire: Poems, © 2004, used by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. Prose excerpts selected from City Dog: Essays, © 2009, reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

Source: Poetry (June 2012)

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This poem originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

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Brother Francis to Brother Leone

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