Poetry Friday: “Francis and the Saint”

This post was originally published on Jan. 18, 2013…exactly six years ago today. As I was reading through some of my published poetry recently, I came upon of this very personal poem and felt it deserved to be seen again, possibly by eyes new to this blog. I hope you like it!

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When I’m not writing children’s poetry, writing advertising copy, or writing my blog, I’m writing adult poetry.  Sorry, those two words together – “adult poetry” – just sound weird…but I just don’t know how else to differentiate it from all my children’s poetry.  In last Friday’s post, I made reference to poets being stereotypically sullen and depressed, and while this doesn’t really describe Yours Truly, I do like to put on my Serious Hat now and then and write poems for an older crowd.

This happens to be one of those poems.

It’s a very personal poem (of course, they all are, aren’t they?) because I wrote it about my wife’s paternal grandfather, Francis.  She and I were very close to him, and we asked if he would be the Best Man at our wedding in August 2008.  He accepted, but unfortunately passed away that spring, before he was able to fulfill his duties.  A deeply religious man and devout Catholic, he felt a strong connection to his patron saint, Francis of Assisi, and he always believed that my wife and I found each other because of his prayers.

Considering the crushing emotional difficulties she and I had gone through with our respective divorces, and the fact that we stumbled upon each other so quickly and strongly, we had every reason to believe it, as well.

Imagine the irony, then, that this poem – written two years after Francis’ death – would end up being published by St. Francis College’s Assisi: Online Journal of Arts & Letters.

Sometimes, things just have a way of working out.

Francis and the Saint

Grandfather loved his birds.
They weren’t really his, of course –
flying to him from trees and bushes,
out of the sky above, from behind
houses
lining the cobblestone
and in-between
awnings and light posts.

Alighting upon his shoulder
or a finger or two
never outstretched
nor enticing,
they must have sensed
safety, security,
calmness of mind.

He attributed that to his namesake
the deacon,
the patron saint,
the one who gave what he had
built what he could
and became rich in poverty.

And now, as grandfather’s birds
return to him
this final time
from behind clouds and rain
soaked pillars,
sparrow, robin, wren
descend,
perch upon his bed,
and grandfather
in quiet requiescence
smiles.

© 2010 Matt Forrest Esenwine

Tricia Stohr-Hunt is this week’s Poetry Friday hostess, and has today’s complete roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect, with a tribute to the late poet Mary Oliver, who passed away earlier this week.

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67 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Francis and the Saint”

  1. It’s the kind of poem that leaves a hush in the room — a reverent beauty and grace that gently settles upon the reader. It reminds me of the Native American belief that birds are the messengers between heaven and earth. So lovely, Matt — also enjoyed the backstory about Grandfather. 🙂

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    1. Thank you, all! BJ, funny how sometimes, one single, unusual word like ‘requiescence’ is the only one that will work, isn’t it? Renee, you should read some ofthe more depressing stuff I’ve come up with – ‘freeing,’ indeed! And Jama, I’m glad the reverence came through…I discovered it’s not easy writing a poem about death that needs to be gentle and uplifting without being dark or even melancholy.

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  2. Lovely poem, Matt. I love the bird parallel between Grandfather and St. Francis. The last verse is so poignant. Just that word “final” says it all. Great internal rhyme in that last verse, too! Just writing about life experiences we all must face is freeing, I think.

    Like

  3. Janet F.

    I felt your grandfather in your words and tribute, Matt. A man who could relate to birds, with whom they found safety and comfort, is a man to be well-loved and remembered. That he was not enticing, but offered calmness of mind, are two of my favorite parts. Safety and security, too. I think children have this sense, too. They just know. I would love to hear you read your poem.

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  4. What a wonderful poem, Matt! It’s always great when poems we write out of personal inspiration resonate with a larger audience. It looks like it found a publication home in just the right place.

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  5. As you know, my grandmother, who loved birds, died last week. Very timely poem for me. I went to visit Assisi and was impressed — it looks great. It’s a wonderful bit of serendipity to have your poem about Grandfather Francis there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do feel for you and your family, Tabatha…and like I said, sometimes things just havea way of working out. I honestly had no idea why I picked this poem to feature; perhaps we now know why.

      Like

  6. As I was reading your first paragraph I thought, “‘Adult poetry’ sounds funny,” and then you said the same thing. 🙂 I really like this poem a lot. I love the way you’ve combined your wife’s grandfather and Saint Francis and the birds. Beautiful.

    Like

  7. Lovely poem, Matt. St. Francis and your wife grandfather served as reminders to be open to nature and animals. My son is traveling to Italy this summer and will visit Assisi. I’m so pleased for him!

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  8. Pingback: Poetry Friday: “Mud Pies for Sale!” « Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

  9. I’ve always been a bit intimidated about grown-up poetry – but the other day I actually found myself reflecting … and maybe I’m starting to make sense of it, after all. Your grown-up poem (and heart behind it) is beautiful.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kat. I started off writing adult leaning POETRY, but most of what I was writing in high school and college was either overwrought, unnecessarily verbose, or just plain bad by any definition. But I kept at it and eventually started having a number of poems published in various journals and literary magazines; it was only in 2009 that I even started entertaining the idea of getting into children’s poetry, so my experience and development sounds like it has been the opposite of yours! I would say to you, just start writing! There’s no time like the present. And remember, #WriteLikeNoOneIsReading!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. lindabaie

    It’s lovely to see this again, Matt. Our grandparents are special to us all our lives no matter how long they’ve been away. I do love the connection in your poem & that it was published in a place he would have loved.

    Like

  11. Matt, the grammar school I went to had a huge statue of St. Francis standing in the foyer. I have always been fond of his story and now you intertwined it with your poem as a tribute to an endearing man. In its quiet beauty, there is so much peace. Knowing the dtory of St. Francis , these words stand out: became rich in poverty. beautiful poem!

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  12. Matt, your poem struck a chord with me particularly because my own grandfather loved Saint Francis. I have his funeral card, with Saint Francis’s peace prayer written out, on the bulletin board over my desk. Thanks for reminding me to draw my eyes up to it more often!

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  13. Karen Eastlund

    Lovely, Matt. What is it about birds? Where did the belief begin that a cardinal means that an angel is near? Perhaps the ability to fly makes us wonder about birds, places them in the realm of mystery more than other creatures. At any rate, I can see or feel this saint smiling, and I am glad you felt his smiles also. Very personal story, but they can make the best ones. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Michelle Kogan

    I’m glad you shared this post again Matt. Your poem is a moving, spiritual tribute to your wife’s grandfather. I’ve always shared a special kinship with birds and have had birds alight on me too, thanks.

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  15. This is lovely, Matt, and even more so when you know the backstory. I love the images you wove and the peaceful, reverent mood. And that word “requiescence”–perfect in both sound and its nuanced meaning.

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  16. Matt I think it’s funny how you placed this poem in your “adult poetry” column, but I honestly I think I think it floats between the two. Children can so relate to their relationships with their grandparents, and also having to cope with their death. I think you captured both so tenderly. Thank you for sharing such a personal story.

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  17. This is beautiful. It reminds me so much of my dearly departed grandfather. He waited each year for the Purple Martins to return in the spring. Thank you for allowing me to linger in a memory of him as I read your poem.

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  18. laurashovan222

    I enjoyed reading this lovely tribute to your grandfather again, Matt. We were just talking with my son about his trip to Italy — Assisi was one of the places he remembers best.

    Like

  19. Joyce Ray

    Thank you for sharing this poem, Matt. It is a beautiful tribute. You’ve used the power of three to good advantage in this poem. Groupings like “safety, security,
    calmness of mind”, “the deacon, the patron saint, the one who…, and “swallow, robin and wren” build a rhythm that is satisfying. So glad the poem was published in an appropriate journal. Grandfather must have been smiling that day!

    Like

    1. I’m sure he was smiling, Joyce. And thank you for picking up on that little device of “3”s – it’s one of those things that isn’t obvious at first, like rhyme, but it does help instill a tone/rhythm. Glad you liked it!

      Like

  20. Linda Mitchell

    What a beautiful poem for who must have been a beautiful soul as you describe. Writing poetry for grown-ups is how I get around the word “adult” and that connotation that my brother in law always giggles at. I love seeing how your poetry has advanced and you’ve become more and more savvy as a published poet, working author. It’s inspiring. Keep going!

    Like

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