Riehlife Poem of the Day: Galway Kinnell’s “St. Francis and the Sow” from Mortal Acts, Mortal Words

When I was in college in my 20s at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville (commuting from my parents land), I was part of the editorial team for their literary magazine “Sou’wester.” My poem “Under Mama’s Yew Tree” (later published in “Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary”) was given some very encouraging words from Galway Kinnell. Because of that slight personal connection, I’ve always had an especially warm connection with his work.


Saint Francis and the Sow
by Galway Kinnell
Mortal Acts, Mortal Words

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and
blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

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