Francis Opila

Statue of St. Francis in the Garden


I thought I saw you wink.

Again you wink. Then, through the wild roses,
your smile reaches me.  Layers of moss
peel from your concrete skin, revealing
your tattered brown cloak. You emerge

from the sword ferns onto the courtyard. Let’s
have tea, you say, and so I put a pot on. Here’s a chair,
a cup of green dragon tea, some biscuits. The stone
Buddha joins us with his quiet presence.  I ask

Did you mind being molded from concrete or would
you have preferred being sculpted from stone?
What are your plans after all these centuries?
Do you want to hear how I’ve survived my hurt?
Have you heard about the latest “holy” wars?
Did you know that the pope took your name?

You simply smile and take another sip of tea.
You tell me about the present moment.
A spotted towhee flits about your feet.
A fox squirrel approaches, a thief
I’ve come to loathe, you offer
him a few large crumbs, which he devours.

We sit. Time drifts. White petals shimmer.
We chant Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
We recite Rumi, we whirl. The wind
plays the reeds. A song sparrow trills.

I know you’ll be going downtown to visit the homeless,
maybe you’ll see the sisters of the road. Your path
to Assisi is long and your peace mission with the sultan
is pressing. Yet, my dear Francis, can you take some time
to walk with me barefoot in the cedar forest
and watch the trillium bloom?




The Priest on the Bus

for Richard Berg, CSC

The bus putters across the aging steel bridge.
The priest, two weeks older than the pope,
wears no starched white collar,
sits every day in the same seat.
The morning fog rises off the river, exposing
the haze of my youth, the belabored
catechisms, the unspoken sins of being.
The smell of strong coffee on his breath,
he asks How’s your girlfriend?
The current eddies under the rusted bridge.
I ask How’s that book you’re writing?

This morning the tide’s flowing out.
I offer the priest a thin book of poetry,
Mary Oliver's Thirst, where she walks with us
to the pond, sunflowers, hummingbirds,
seekers of sweetness, but he insists
he has too much to read.  It takes two minutes

to read a poem, a randomly chosen poem,
wherever the book opens. Today he accepts
the book, opens to reflection on the ride,
opens to the next day's Mass, even in Advent,
purple vestments, shimmering candles,
his sermon offers a poem:

The fox in the field,
the yellow chat singing,
the heron in the pond,
humble prayers
of truth stirring in the ripples.




Francis Opila has lived in the Pacific Northwest most of his adult life; he currently resides in Portland, OR.  His work, recreation, and spirit have taken him out into the woods, wetlands, mountains, and rivers.  His poetry has been published in Latitude on 2nd and Empirical. He enjoys performing poetry, combining recitation and playing Native American flute. He can be reched at: