St. Francis and the Almond Tree

by Burt Bradley

Like a pair of small birds, his eyes fluttered
open in the dark room. Lighting the candle,
he gazed not at the shadows on the flickering walls,
but on the small crucifix beginning to glow.

Transfixed, he watched the wood burst into flame,
without burning. The ivory figure bled light,
without agony, the graven face, with only
the faintest smile, the eyes closed
like the folded wings of a dove.

Blinded by the vision, he stumbled out
into the bluecold dawn, his bare feet numb
on the stone path. Winter had emptied the garden,
shriveling vines, their browned and blackened stems
clean as the tiny skulls of flower heads.

The naked tree, more bone than bark, stood
glazed with ice, like death itself
contorted into a corpse in the frozen air.
His thin robe trembling, he stood,
and deeply breathed the empty cold.

He murmured to the silent tree, Tell me
about God. Without a word, the limbs burst
into blossom, and he fell, his body curling
into a prayer of thanksgiving.