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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recapitating St. Francis

[written in 2007]

It always happens that something I love gets broken.
So it was with St. Francis.

I had wanted one for years,
and finally our daughter Anna made me a
ceramic St. Francis with a wolf and two birds.
She glazed them all in glossy pewter, like shiny metal.

An hour after I set St. Francis outside, Mike knocked him over,
breaking off half an arm –
so many pieces, impossible to glue.
Yet I kept St. Francis in our rock garden,
jagged arm stump jutting,
rationalizing: the break is symbolic –
we must be the arm of St. Francis.

(Mike said the wolf bit off the arm and
we should paint the edge red.
I said no.)

For years the one-armed St. Francis stood amid
grape hyacinths or impatiens.
In time, both birds fell off and
only the wolf remained his companion.
then last week Mike toppled him again.
This time when St. Francis fell, his head broke off.

For a couple of weeks, the saint’s body lay in the dirt near his rolled-away head,
until a friend visited and noticed,
and I was ashamed enough to grab
St. Francis and his head
and bring them into the house.

Last night I said to Mike, “Do you want to recapitate St. Francis?”
Mike said sure. So I got the Krazy Glue
and ran to the basement to fetch the de-antlered buck
that Brian, our son, made so long ago,
carefully glazed to look real.
The buck’s place was my flower bed,
but somehow he too got broken.
I couldn’t display him that way,
and I hate to glue things,
so for years the deer remained on my laundry table,
his fawn beside him.

“Can you glue this too?” I asked Mike,
holding out a hand full of ear and antler pieces.
“Sure,” he said.
“I’ll help,” I told him,
hoping he wouldn’t need me,
because I don’t like to glue things.

But I did hold pieces together after Mike glued them.
While they dried, we talked about how
he made models when he was a boy.
He used rubber bands to hold pieces together,
or held them with his fingers,
reading assembly directions while the glue dried.

I thought about my dad telling me how
when he was a boy
he walked around town so he could listen to his corduroy knickers rub together.
He called them “whistle britches” because they squeaked like a whistle.

Kids used to have a lot of patience, I thought.
Kids entertained themselves.

Then I realized I had glued my fingers together
with the Krazy Glue.
Mike pulled them apart without blood, but
it hurt and left a horrible glue residue
like dead skin.
I said, “I should stay away from glue.”

Today, for some reason,
I worked by myself on the buck
and didn’t glue my fingers together,
but soon realized we’re missing one whole antler.
After all our work,
the buck might have to resume laundry duty.
I can’t rationalize a one-antler buck in the flower bed,
even though antlers drop off in real life –
it just looks odd.

St. Francis was fine this morning, totally recapitated.
I used a black marker to color the white chips
on his forehead and cowl.
After wrestling all the ear and antler pieces,
I was glad St. Francis had only one head
and it was in one piece.

I might hang a little flower basket on his half-arm to hide the jagged edge;
I bet the real St. Francis liked flowers.

Normally I don’t like lawn knick-knacks,
and I hate gluing,
but Anna made St. Francis when she was a little girl
and Brian made the buck when he was a little boy.

            [This story-poem will be included in my
                    new book, Dessert First, out soon on

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