Santa Maria degli Angeli
The forest in the church cannot be seen;
Nor weeds and brambles underneath the stone;
The voices of the larking friars tone
Down the insistence of the birds that they
Are here alone.
And in the chapel, Saint
Francis kneels, while crowded prie-dieus make
Their murmurous way.
Only the souvenirs
Preserve this touching place untouched; in paint,
On paper, china, cardboard, silk, they take
Time enough for poverty and real salt tears.
The empty tomb is filled with paper money;
As though by charity she might be coaxed
Away from home, suddenly to come to life
Behind the plate glass window, where her boxed
Body attracts the perfume of so many
Prayers, and deliver all the poor from grief.
She does not stir; the money drifts like snow -
The poor providing for their other selves:
Far off, the voices of her daughters rise,
‘He hath put down the mighty’: time resolves
The gold and roses at her side; - but new
Splendours appear, as each poor woman prays.
Beneath the Giottos and the Cimabues,
Which fade like every other kind of fame.
Down in this cavern, where the candles gutter
In a wind from nowhere, they have found
Your priceless bones - now barred off in the same
Way as jewels. And here the fluent stutter.
And here the experts are abashed. The sound
Of praying rises like the thunder of
A battle driven desperate underground.
And that is all. No paintings to admire.
No pious tinsel-touches to deplore.
Only the banks of flowering candles - love
Squandering centesimi on fire
To ring your stark unyielding rock around.
Here poverty, superb, is something more
Than riches gone. You’ve had your way. The poor,
At home here, crowd your palace, then go, crowned
In your likeness, towards that paradise
The birds and fish still preach about, allure
The children to. There cats are kind to mice.
There you speak for us to il gran Signor.