Three Views of Assisi        

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.


Santa Chiara


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.


San Francesco


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.