St Francis tells Br. Leo about the incident at Gubbio
My heart in my mouth I set off to meet Wolf.
He filled me with fear. He was Other.
I walked dark into the forest, so deeply looking
That at first I failed to see this Brother.
He appeared to be slinking around a tree.
In shadow, he looked all grey and black.
His eyes though lighted were lifeless,
And I froze, my feet bare on the mountain track.
I stared at the terrible empty eyes.
Brother Wolf still as a stone about to slide.
My eyes entered his and the space between melted.
We became one: my eyes and heart in Wolf’s inside.
He swallowed me whole. Yet I possessed him too.
Confused our hunger for love and humanity.
Crossed our praise of power in life and death.
Gubbio lay below in its simple vulnerability.
We stayed like that for time and a time,
Then slowly, gently in two came apart;
The same, yet different than before.
I burning with hunger and he humbled in heart.
I led him back like a lamb to the village.
Aflame, I rebuked him with voice and with prod.
“Share, show respect, live in harmony.”
The villagers rejoiced. I devoured God.
Ted Witham © 1996
I wrote this poem in 1996, but lately I have been thinking again about the paradoxes of redemption: wolves and food, need and encounter come to mind again in this telling of the story of the events near Gubbio.
Published in Assisi, New York, Fall 2011, Spring 2012