I went to Assisi to recall my mother
one year after her lonely cross,
a need to evade sorrow’s smother
one year after my searing loss.
Carrying grief in my unwashed hair,
I came at night to the Umbrian plain.
The city of peace was glowing there,
a gleam of mercy through a squall of pain.
I trod the steps of Francis’s feet
and only went where I was led.
To open my soul I did not eat
but trudged uphill with an aching head.
There I found his weathered figure,
a bronze homage to holy rest,
body unfolded in tranquil stature
gazing into the summoning west.
I carried a box of silver sorrow,
the cremation of her time-worn days;
around his head an ashy halo
a symbol of my dismal haze.
The shock of loss was still my psalm,
as I had reached the end of tether;
an open window the evening’s balm
as I laid myself on a bed of weather.
So I said to myself if I should wake;
the saint’s day mass I would take.
Dawn’s soft dimness greeted my feet
in the narrow pink-stoned street.
Spidery movement on pavement cobble
bending me low to broken hobble.
Glancing upward I found its source:
a white shone feather’s downward course.
I raised and opened my left hand;
it landed like water on hard baked sand.
I felt like one who is singled out,
chosen as broken, a man of doubt.
I curled my hand around its grace;
it touched my soul like a mother’s face.
In the darkened crypt of the barefoot saint
I knelt as tears washed away constraint.
The trauma died as they broke the bread,
and wine woke a mother to stand in her stead.