I love this poem. I love it because it’s about love. It’s about self-love. It’s about the essential loveableness of all beings.
The subject is an animal that humans tend to see as ugly, fat, and perhaps gross. An animal fit for eating. However, through the imagined eyes of St. Francis, patron saint of animals, the sow represents each one of us. The sow is the same as the rose bud or the homeless person or the saint. The sow is a Being meant to fulfill its destiny by unfolding authentically and truthfully. I also love that this poem captures the complexity of being a Being. It shares the “great broken heart”, the creases, thickness, and the “perfect loveliness” of the sow.
The poem talks about how some beings need to be reminded and even retaught that they are lovely and loveable. Some of us forget or were taught we were unlovable. Most of us have been conditioned by people and culture that we should be different than we are. We’re taught that we should follow others’ expectations rather than our authentic loveliness. This, of course, sets us up to feel unlovable, unworthy, and not good enough.
But “…everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing”. Self-love. Self-determination. Self-defined. Self-creating. Self-expressing. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the sublime of us. From the creased forehead down through all the earthliness and messy humanness of us to the other beings we encounter in our everyday lives. We are the mother. Every being we encounter we can nourish and uplift with our real selves or deprive by our inauthenticity or lack of connection.
The poem says that sometimes beings need to be retaught their loveliness. It describes the loving word and touch of the blessed one bestowed upon the lowly earth animal. Here’s the thing though, St. Francis is within you. You have the power of blessing when you’re in alignment with your Higher Self. Tune into the loving, appreciating, seeing, blessing part of yourself. Hold and appreciate yourself for all that you are, real and true. Bless how you look, all you feel, the reality of what is.
Let it all be okay. Let yourself say “yes” to it all in this moment. Shine the blessings of awareness, acknowledgment, and love on all of you. You always get to choose changes and upgrades but acknowledge the reality of where you are with love right now. Be your fullest, truest self. I read Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed”.
She asked, “What is the truest, most beautiful story about your life you can imagine?” This is where you get to reimagine yourself by building on the truth of who you really are. What’s the real narrative about who you are and what your life is about?
So, how do we know who that real self is?
You can observe yourself. You see both real and false parts revealed through observation. Notice how you talk to yourself. Notice how you talk to others. Notice patterns of reactions toward self and others. Notice how those things feel. Which things feel good? Explore them more deeply to see if they feel good on the deep level. Which things feel bad? Is there shame or guilt? Explore these feelings. I usually think guilt is not a helpful emotion. Remorse, or brief regret, about having done something hurtful to self or other, yes, but guilt no. Yes, it’s important to take responsibility for our actions and to live with the natural consequences. Mistakes are here because we’re imperfect humans and on a growing journey. We need our mess ups to point us in the right direction, to help us evolve. Guilt, however, can become an anchor rather than a propeller moving us forward.
Shame is another story. Often it was given to us at an early age. Look for more posts about shame in the future. Shame and guilt are about the past and can in no way change the past. Use the painful feelings as a pointer to what needs your attention and love.
Healing guilt and shame require the salve of compassion with strong, consistent doses of love and forgiveness. Even the lowly sow nursing her piglets is fully worthy of loveliness and blessings. So are you.
Saint Francis and the Sow
By Galway Kinnell
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 from 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.