National Poetry Month Day 21: “Letters from Saint Francis” by Joshua Heineman


Letters from Saint Francis

Update Required
To play the media you will need to either update your browser to a recent version or update your Flash plugin.

Flowers fill a wall three stories tall near the river, by the Parc du Champ de Mars
& I’m there, eyes wide, mouth sharp, in another year, long from now, far far from here
& old Paris seems so complete – so completely covered in concrete & meaning
I’m only bone-tired again, ready to be swallowed up by the din of Europe’s evening
Reborn as a Basque tour guide, or a pigeon on a park bench facing the seaside
… never leaving, my Mediterranean mothers & the gentle nudging of Italian weather.
Impressed by ordinary men less than humbled by the overwhelming obesity of time
Who go on, set apart from location, from station to station, & fashion some sort of home
In love like long rambling walks with no destination – Teach me that language
Run out my weakness on the roads of history stretched out to infinity & still arriving…
A thriving marriage of humanity & patience. Paris, I am there, unthinking.
Until a sober cathedral bell shakes me, reclaims me from a dumbstruck stupor
Here are the paved sand dunes of my poor California, America’s bold boutique future
Here are four hard years of my tracks, from hill to bay & back, from that Parisian wall of plants
& these nights – these nights lit like fires in the center of stars die out entirely. Morning in ruins, running
Two tickets to Istanbul & then the Serbian countryside & then… nothing.
& finally, that life can still be like this.

-Joshua Heineman

ROPA banner ad

Joshua Heineman is a writer and artist in San Francisco. ‘Reaching for the Out of Reach’ – his digital repurposing of historical stereographs – inspired a web app at the New York Public Library and was featured on NPR, The Atlantic and The New York Times. His work is collected at

Original poetry published by The Rumpus. More from this author →