Collect for the Feast of Saint Francis

by C. Henry Smith

I feel, most days, like a processional,
some monstrance flapping
above the thurifer and smoke,

or like Sunday boots scuffed on a Saturday night.
I feel late for a benediction,

the third voice in a canon,
the badly behaved animal at the Blessing of the Pets.

I feel like my father in a season of stray cats,
when he saved scrapyard foundlings from coyote, perdition,

his palms grown bloody,
bloody with their thanks. Everything longs, he says,

opens a cocooning
jar bright with wing. I can’t caretake what’s lost,

make my body behave,
make my hands resemble a church when folded—

they’re only wisteria, a broken word,
the mid-sermon cowbird caught up in the rafters,

neck snapped on stained glass,
its collapse at the demi-pointe
feet of our savior.


C. Henry Smith makes poems in Brooklyn. He is the author of the chapbook Warren (Ghost City Press), and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Jabberwock Review, DMQ Review, Peach Velvet Mag, Dappled Things, River River, and others. He received his MFA at Oregon State University and is grateful for past residencies through Spring Creek Project and Chicago Art Department. @chenrysmith

Image: “St. Francis Preaching to the Birds” by Giotto

Image description: St. Francis preaches to birds at the base of a tree, while another figure watches.