Entry - MAG Poetry Prize 2011

The Feast of St Francis of Assisi, The Church of Santa Croce, Firenze


In search of Michelangelo,
I find huge gates of Gothic, Franciscan city pride locked fast.
Giotto’s birling golds and ambers obscured,
No reason given.
Surging, surly Americans complain, cameras redundant.
Oblivious, on stoury steps below,
A stained figure with hair of dusty tow sits, shoes agape.
Arcing his arms, encircling his world.
Locked in conversation with himself, his sole company.
Noli me tangere.
Swaying, nodding, laughing, two people as one.
Both giver and receiver of words.
No-one near but birds.
St Francis comes to mind.
Bearer of words. Carer of birds.
Checking my purse, I tuck larger notes away.
Who knows what Tuscan treats I’ll want.
Pieces of silver chosen, I approach,
Handing them from above like manna from Heaven.
In mid-conversation you look up.
Bearer of words.  Carer of birds.
You hold out your tarry hand.
On your burnished face a roguish grin, brown stumps barely visible.
In your eyes, unbridled joy at my careful generosity.
You explain your happiness to yourself.
And as I leave, you raise your coins skywards.  Worshipping.
Had you offered your hand gratefully to me, I might have recoiled.
Betrayed you like all the world.
I question my motive … And my humanity.

Added: 04.04.2011

Judges' comments on this poem


Commendably strong finish, the opening might benefit from further work to reach the same standard.


This poem created a powerful sense of place and atmosphere, and though it sometimes could be trimmed a little, it is evocatively written.


Quite pronoun-heavy, but I enjoy the repeating phrase re: words and birds. It's used appropriately .


Beautifully set poem - I can feel Italy and see the look of the 'Bearer of words. Carer of birds.' Maybe a shorter title?


a poem about charity;the beggar highlighted in such an iconic context,some unusual imagery and language-the meaning of "stoury?"


Swaying, nodding, laughing, two people as one. Both giver and receiver of words. No-one near but birds. - love these words! Well done.


Love 'giver & receiver of words/ ... birds' Rhythmic & nice mirror effect. Good theme, questioning our humanity/motives. Too long a title?