Monday, May 9, 2011

Brother Wolf, Sister Sparrow

Painting by Jusepe de Ribera

Brother Wolf, Sister Sparrow

“It is the duty of all men to protect and enjoy nature as both
stewards of God’s creation, and creatures themselves.”
--St. Francis of Assisi

Like Buddha before him,
Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone
was born to wealth, and grew up
high-spirited, haunting pleasure palaces
and taverns, always attired in the most
colorful and fashionable of garments,
until his privileged status grew stale
spurring him to join a military expedition,
where he was taken prisoner at Collestrada,
was held captive for a year,
and when he returned, it seems,
his former lifestyle had lost its luster.

He began giving money, garments, and gifts
to the poor, and assisting elder priests
in rebuilding their crumbling churches.
He dressed in rags, joining the beggars
on the steps of St. Peter’s.

When asked by his anxious friends
if he would ever marry, he replied:
“Yes, and to a fairer bride than any of you
have ever seen--lady poverty.”

His father, Pietro, panicked,
began to threaten him, beat him,
lock him up for weeks; but each time
when he was freed, he left
his fine clothes neatly folded,
and returned to the streets,
where finally he was driven
to renounce his father and his patrimony.

Francis gathered eleven followers,
nursed lepers, wandered the mountains
in the district of Umbria--always a cheerful
ragged band, singing away chaos,
living off the sweet charity
of those they encountered.
He preached and wrote the Gospels
in Italian, at the level of the common man,
and he earned the title,
“the first Italian people’s poet.”

There is a wonderful legend about
his traveling to the city of Gubbio,
where a terrifying rogue wolf
was slaying both the flocks and the shepherds.
He went up into the hills
and faced the wolf, who did not attack him.
He said to the great predator,
“Brother Wolf, I would like to make peace
between you and the people.”
He led the wolf into the town
telling the people to repay its evil with love:
“Feed him regularly and his hunger will not
drive him to kill.”
Then he blessed the wolf, and the city,
and moved on humming an unknown tune.

He was famous for his reaching out to Islam,
pointing out to the Muslims that the Koran
contained the truth of their common fellowship.
In 1219 he made a journey to Egypt,
where the Crusaders had spent a year
besieging the city of Damietta,
hoping to find peace or martyrdom
at the hands of Sultan al-Kemil--
but instead converted
the potentate to Christianity.

Francis was an empath, gathering
other’s misery, disease, and negative energy
unto himself; calling his own maladies his “sisters”.
In 1224, while going blind, he received
the Stigmata, making it clear to him
that his own transition drew near.
On his deathbed, he blessed his donkey,
praising it for carrying him and his burden
for so long, and witnesses claim
the donkey wept as Francis

Glenn Buttkus

May 2011

Listed as #39 over on Magpie Tales 65

Would you like to hear the Author read this poem to you?


Anonymous said...

Wow. Pure genius and what a musicality to the words.

Helen said...

This is a masterpiece!

Love the title and nod to the film 'Brother Sun, Sister Moon.'

brenda w said...

Thank you for telling the tale in a way that engaged reader me. I bookmarked this, and will read it until the story can filter through me to others. Thank you. This is beautiful.

Brian Miller said...

this was wonderfully told picked just the right moments to blend capturing the tale well...

Catalyst said...


Friko said...

I am so glad you have posted this piece of work.

You leave appreciative, generous and well-crafted comments on blogs, - I definitely look for your column on my blog -, yet you so rarely give us a view of your accomplished writing here, on your own blog.

This is a gentle little push towards more of the same.

Brigid said...

Such a lovely post. I found it moving and the last line, let's hope it was true.

Arne Zaslove said...

I was in Umbria and visited his cell. The space was no larger than a small stone cot with a window looking out on the garden that was still being attended by some friars.


Tess Kincaid said...

Beautiful and informative write, Glenn. Can I take credit for the inspiration of your title? ;^)

Tess Kincaid said...

btw, I totally agree with Friko.

Southwest Arkie said...

Wonderful Glenn- I enjoyed reading this so much!

Jingle said...

you know the history and background of him so well.
rich and reflective magpie.
bless you.

HyperCRYPTICal said...

Wonderful history in words!

Anna :o]

chiccoreal said...

Dear Glenn: Adored this well spoken dramatic reading and visually stimulating account of the life of St. Francis. Bravo!

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Glenn~ Your narrative is beautifully depcited as well as rhythmic, musical. I found some of the facts you chose to include were quite telling, especially the Islam connection; what a strange coincidence that we could have used his empathy in this day and age, and St. Francis saw the need in the 13th century.
On a personal note, as I listened to your voice relate this prose poem, I thought you could live next door (i.e., in the northeast, NJ), but you live in the Pacific northwest? Are you a transplant? You spin a fabulous tale, both in writing and in speaking. Bravo!

Steve Isaak said...

Solid, bustling versework.