St. Francis and the Snow Wife

by Burt Bradley

Winter howled about him,
snapping at his robe already torn
from the rocks of the mad scramble
into the mountains. Snow gnawed
at his sandaled feet, the leather stiff
and wet cracking as he stumbled on.
Burning up, his loins aflame, he fell
under an alcove where a woman,
lay wide hipped and spread
like a field ready for seed.

The little saint screamed
as she licked at his mind, his soul.
He knew not just sex, but it was life
that lusted after him in the guise
of a wife waiting for him with milk
and cheese for his table, waiting
for him in bed at night, waiting for him, too,
with children, three rosy cheeked sons
and two wine dark daughters all under
a thatched roof with a warm fire
and the breaded life Jesus died for.

No! He yelled and tore at his robe,
lashing his back with his rope belt.
Crying like an animal in a trap,
he tore the night to shreds, and still
the heaving woman beckoned him.
Diving onto the freezing ground, he thrust
his flaming arms into the snow
and scooped and dug and piled mound
after mound–seven like the little sisters overhead,
five smallish lumps in a row
and one off to the side, larger than the rest:
ample shaped and filled with moonlight.

There! he shouted into the clear sky,
is my family, my wife for whom I will
work by the sweat of my spirit,
my children whom I will feed
with this holy air, and my life
which I will lay down for them
and for the love of my Master
whose own work blesses this aching back,
these blisters, this blood, drop by drop,
consecrating this cold, colorless world.