Gospel & Universe

If Only 2: San Francesco d'Assisi

This page starts in Rome and ends in Assisi. It suggests that Heaven remains a wonderful ideal, a glorious if only.

Rome: Campo de' Fiori - Assisi: The Tomb of Saint Francis - The Lower Basilica - The Upper Basilica - Pound: If Only

A view of Rome from the Capitoline Hill (photo RYC)

A view of Rome from the Capitoline Hill (photo RYC)

The lower plaza of the Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi (photo RYC)

The lower plaza of the Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi (photo RYC)

(Assisi, 2018 — photos RYC)

Rome: Campo de' Fiori

an orange globe of magical Apero spritz

dances on the red and black checkered table

full of bright orange light, eternal Rome, and ice

like a liquid world that one could stay in forever

strong and sweet and without need of remedy

here one minute and gone the next

quickly

in

or

on

its

glass stem

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Across the square looms an enormous statue of Giordano Bruno

martyred in 1600 for his crime

of looking too deeply into the stars.

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I wonder what the old Dominican sees now, if anything?

And what will we see, when Khayyam’s cup is empty

and the blue sky has, like a wine-house on a cloudy night, gone back to black?

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Will the celestial realms discard him

or is he on a journey he could only have imagined

across the navy-blue sky?

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Assisi: The Tomb of Saint Francis

 

I sit here in the magnetic silence of the tomb of Saint Francis

dreaming of energy, centripetal motion, and the stars.

I also dream of that old, unquenchable Dream

where spirits circle in the depth of night

and where spiritual energies whirl

beneath our world of sight

until they rest at last

at the still point

of the swirl

ing uni-

vers

e

,

the infinitely large and the infinitely small

like angels dancing on a pin

having at last come

face to

face

.

Is Bruno whirling in the same centripetal sphere as Saint Francis

or is he now writhing in a fire and brimstone cyclone

something that Savonarola might conjure

to swirling forever downward

into Dante’s Inferno —

while the mystic

bathes in

light

?

Or is this all just some sort of fantasy?

So

skeptical, I

nevertheless wonder

about that otherworldly World

with the cosmos spinning in the night

and pulsing with energy in a Divina Commedia

with its Happy Ending somewhere at the end of stars

Illustration (cropped and coloured) of Dante’s  Divine Comedy  (12, San Bonaventura), by Gustave Doré, Hachette, Paris, 1868 (Wikimedia Commons)

Illustration (cropped and coloured) of Dante’s Divine Comedy (12, San Bonaventura), by Gustave Doré, Hachette, Paris, 1868 (Wikimedia Commons)

 

If only

 

I dream of the Spettacolo of the planets and suns

spinning around mystic souls of Light

and among them, most eminent, is Saint Francis

so like Jesus that blood burst from his palms and feet

The Stigmatization of St.Francis , Giotto, 1295-1300. Louvre, Wikimedia Commons.

The Stigmatization of St.Francis, Giotto, 1295-1300. Louvre, Wikimedia Commons.

Saint Francis recieving the Stigmata, National Galleries of Scotland

Saint Francis recieving the Stigmata, National Galleries of Scotland


Saint Francis, Jesus made imminent

in our geography and history,

unlike that other Jesus

far more glorious

and magical

yet

a figure

who we struggle

to bring into the everyday light

of geography, history, and a little thing called fact

Yet what does it matter who lived when

or if they lived at all

as long as they help us understand the nature of love?

The Lower Basilica

 

In the Lower Basilica Saint Francis' humility is robed in gold

so that this humble man could rise through paradox with angelic wing

past green sea walls and blue heaven skies 

two cathedrals high, fresco upon fresco

 

I see the simple shoes in a spotless glass case — the “Pantofolo

di San Francesco d’Assisi” — walking as if on water, through the air

casting aside gravestones as he climbs the blue and green spaces of the vault

and wonders at the vision of all those damned

From The University of Dallas site, Perugia, Assisi, and Orvieto Trip, at https://udallas.edu/rome/romenews/sp17_umbriatrip021017

From The University of Dallas site, Perugia, Assisi, and Orvieto Trip, at https://udallas.edu/rome/romenews/sp17_umbriatrip021017

On one side he sees the horror of snakes wrapped around their heads

and on the other side blue angels floating around a triple cross

as his saviour hangs there, together with two sinners;

a shooting star vaults over Gethsemane

and stigmata blast him downward from the sky;

as Calvary and resurrection

are born aloft the blue Heaven on angel wings 

The Upper Basilica

 

The unseen angels spire into a second cathedral

another planet, galaxy, or universe

rich with golden hues and deep pools of green and blue

Basilica (superiore) di San Francesco, photo on Flikr, by   Giulia Piepoli     ( creativecommon )

Basilica (superiore) di San Francesco, photo on Flikr, by Giulia Piepoli (creativecommon)

I look upward into these depths and imagine the heavens as oceans

with millions of currents punctuated by golden stars

Photo of the ceiling of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi. Photo by permission of the photographer, Nadia d’Agaro — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/. This photo can be found in her album on Umbria — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/albums/72157627135961005. Grazie, Nadia!

Photo of the ceiling of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi. Photo by permission of the photographer, Nadia d’Agaro — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/. This photo can be found in her album on Umbria — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/albums/72157627135961005. Grazie, Nadia!

The pastel stories beneath the ocean teach us

(lost as we are in our visions)

to go beyond self

to serve others;

teach us compassion and sacrifice

St Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man  (1295), by Giotto di Bondone (Wikimedia Commons, no attribution)

St Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man (1295), by Giotto di Bondone (Wikimedia Commons, no attribution)

 This story takes us from dust to ether

from humble leather shoes

to a place that’s further than the wings of Mercury

past Apollo’s sun

to the Son

 

Do the names really matter?

Jesus, Saint Francis

Mary the sinner, Mary Mother of God

creation or evolution

the God who has no earthly mother

the Son who has no earthly father

the stories wrap around themselves

until we escape the form and enter the content

or enter the content through the form, what does it matter?

like the paradox of the deep blue sea, high above us

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Assisi, la Basilica superiore di San Francesco, original photo by Starlight (Wikimedia Commons); the second photo altered by RYC.

Assisi, la Basilica superiore di San Francesco, original photo by Starlight (Wikimedia Commons); the second photo altered by RYC.

 In this water a trillion blue souls swim in the ether

past Andromeda and the Hercules Supercluster to another universe altogether

Giordano Bruno waves a leafy hand  from some unknown realm

deep in a cavern beneath the waves

far beyond our local Virgo Supercluster of galaxies

past the Corona-Borealis Void

somewhere in the infinity of stars 

“Location of Earth,” by  Andrew Z. Colvin , Wikimedia Commons. For clear visual illustrations of where our Earth is in the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Virgo Supercluster, see  this link from Wikipedia .

“Location of Earth,” by Andrew Z. Colvin, Wikimedia Commons. For clear visual illustrations of where our Earth is in the solar system, the Milky Way, and the Virgo Supercluster, see this link from Wikipedia.

Photo (turned clockwise) of the ceiling of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi. Photo by permission of the photographer, Nadia d’Agaro — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/. This photo can be found in her album on Umbria — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/albums/72157627135961005. Grazie, Nadia!

Photo (turned clockwise) of the ceiling of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi. Photo by permission of the photographer, Nadia d’Agaro — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/. This photo can be found in her album on Umbria — at https://www.flickr.com/photos/nadiadagaro/albums/72157627135961005. Grazie, Nadia!

Green pools burst into oceans of blue, colouring the navy depths of space

where angels flutter, pulsing from stern to bow

the nave a sea-born vessel

the body a water-born spirit ascending to the apse

with its stain-glass, blue-green depths of height

and above it all the turbulent and peaceful, paradoxical sea, punctuated by golden stars

 

Pound: If Only

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

(Ezra Pound, 1913)

Waiting in the cafe of the Assisi train station, faces aren’t turning into petals. The cappuccinos are strong, but not that strong.

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The iPhone can't cope with the bright daylight, and turns my forehead into light, as if the angels themselves were —

it’s 11:55 and the train will soon be on the tracks.

 

——-

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