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)

Rome: Campo de' Fiori

An orange globe of Apero spritz

dances on the checkered table

full of orange light, and ice,

like a liquid world

here one minute and gone the next.

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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.

 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 an empty wine-house, 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 infinite sky?

 

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 writhing in a fire and brimstone cyclone

something Savonarola might conjure

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

where the cosmos spins in the night

and pulses 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 was a Jesus made imminent

in geography and history,

unlike the legendary Jesus we struggle to see.

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 paradox of a man can rise 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” — walk

as if on water, through the air

casting aside gravestones as he climbs

the blue and green spaces of the vault

“Affreschi Giotto e Giotteschi”

A Blue and Green Heaven for Simple Soles

 

I see him step horizontally

toward the simple cross hanging in the apse

and wonder at the visions of the 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 the horror of the damned

with snakes wrapped around their heads

and on the other side blue angels that float around a triple cross

as he hangs there, together with two sinners

a shooting star vaults over Gethsemane

and stigmata blast downward from the sky

 

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, another galaxy, another universe

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

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

The vaulted ceilings are rich with golden hues

and deep pools of green and blue

 

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

with a million 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 teach us

(lost in ourselves)

to go beyond self

to serve others;

teach us not just compassion

but also 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 mother

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

into what may be an 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

and surface in the azure-blue depths of space

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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