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Lay for the Day 3rd October

1226: St Francis of Assisi dies, at the age of about 45. Because of his passionate love for fellow creatures – to the point that he could even call the diseases that tormented his final years his “sisters” – he is a patron and protector of all animals. But he is particularly associated with birds, because of the legend of his preaching the Gospel to them, as depicted in a fresco in Assisi’s magnificent basilica, built above his tomb. Perhaps this legend began as an alibi for Francis’s breach of Church law. His religion overflowed in public places, to anyone who would listen, and the Church forbade preaching by laymen, i.e. by those whom it had not licensed.
The section-titles give a clue to the birds depicted. The second part of the sequence appears on 4th October, the third on 16th October.

Philosophers of the Window part 1


One more heard than seen
now in the dead hours
begins to sing.
His shape is a deep, clean
slot of black
in the grey blush that passes
for night,
and a spring uncoiling his flight.
nil, he says: from nothing I was born
half-sphere, that eddy of old wisps
where blindly
he squealed behind the drainpipe];
briefly I burn,
and to nought shall return;
and still the summer
comes for me to score.
This one sees hope in the absence of light.



These big eye see
yes green tree,
blue sky flow
in one no:

as they smelt
such weak-
ness as they seek.

A croak-
told joke
and after
p itch-empty laughter.

A lurching strut
and then the flut-
tering of weathered-

wings. Undone boot,
upripped root,
blot of oil
unto-death loyal.

A raw hole bored
through the whole word,
a black gap
under a flap.

John Gibbens
from Falling Down

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar