Saint Anna Francis Feeds the Birds
For Anna Francis Bloch in memoriam
That old master Berlinghieri,
in a panel on his painting
of Saint Francis of Assisi,
depicts the saint intently preaching,
not to people, worldly sinners,
but to birds, feeding and singing,
chirping and fluttering
in their daily round of living.
They see a stranger dressed in brown,
a threat perhaps, in his advances,
but something strange compels them not
to fly, but perch nearby in branches.
Tranquillo, silenzioso, mi amici…
no warbling now, no whistling, peeping,
no fluttering, preening, no more rills;
Brother Francis to you is preaching.
It’s plain to see our Creator
loves you so tenderly
because it’s He who has given you
these gifts so abundantly.
Don’t forget to give Him thanks
for air and food, for feathers and fountains,
for trees and streams,
for valleys and mountains.
Don’t forget to give Him thanks;
don’t fall into the sin of ingratitude.
You have so many benefits,
always remember to sing praise to God.
What else can birdsong be but praise?
Science tells us it’s all territorial,
singing is merely a warning to keep
others away from their nests arboreal.
But surely the mockingbird’s song at night
is more than that. I think it’s joy
and what is joy but a kind of praise,
for us as well, for we enjoy
at some place beyond our reason
the connection with nature;
we thrill at his trill,
this gift from our Maker.
But sometimes gifts are hard to find
or they come through another’s devotion,
and you, a saint to all birdkind
had no objection to their commotion.
You gave them food with loving care.
Saint Francis gave them words, poor fare
for those whose needs are met with seeds,
a little water, sun and air.
Is that the Holy Ghost above?
Oh, it’s your descending dove,
come in answer to your call
at bird bedtime at evenfall.
Penwood Review, Spring, 2017