Frances Richey

March 25, 2020 Richey Frances

for Michael


Do you remember those Cornell shadow boxes we saw at some
little gallery in Soho,
or was it photographs in a place on Park?
All I can recall is the image
of a smokey green window, a tasseled string hanging from a shade.

And the time we went to the Whitney for your birthday. I gave you
a green turbo shell I’d bought at that hole-in-the-wall on Columbus
that carried clavicles
and femur bones of questionable origins,
and those skeletons
of seahorses and bats.
Their Conch shells’ inner tunnels polished
to a high rose, too heavy to carry; the hinged angel wings
too delicate to survive
my walk across the park to meet you.

It was April. It seemed that every blossoming tree was in full flower,
wisteria hanging from covered arches, saturated purples, greens
and yellows,
cherry blossoms so new they hadn’t shed their pink.

Did you keep those notebooks from our yoga classes?
I wrote down all the postures—
little notes to remind me to remind you…
Your blue mat spread out on the concrete floor gave you tread
for downward dog, the crow.
It’s the repetitions, class after class,
week after week, that change you.

There’s your heart, the muscle,
and your heart center,
that space around your chest,
an aura that expands when you breathe
into cobra. The way your third chakra churns
when you step out into warrior,
into life.

Yesterday, when we met at Lincoln Center after so many years,
and walked among the trees along the promenade
searching for the perfect spot,
you seemed transformed
and yet the same—
silver at your temples, Ganesha in your pocket—
just as the fountain was still there bubbling to music, though obscured
by hundreds of folding chairs
for the end-of-summer out-door operas.

We considered the sloping lawn across from Juilliard,
but the entrance was chained.
It overlooked Henry Moore’s
Reclining Figure,
bronze cast in ancient oceanic green.
Its thighs appeared separate from its torso, connected
out-of-sight underneath.
They rose up out of the reflecting pool
like an archipelago, beautiful and strange as old friends, separated
by continents, by missions,
who remain connected.

There was a marble ledge along the wall of the gift shop,
tall windows framed in marble.
On the other side
of the glass, books lined up on painted shelves.
I sat on that ledge under ashen clouds while you shot picture
after picture.
It didn’t matter
that I was no longer beautiful,
that each frame would show what years of city life
had done to my face.
I was happy for the time to watch you work.

Frances Richey is the author of three poetry collections: The Warrior (Viking Penguin 2008), The Burning Point (White Pine Press 2004), and the chapbook, Voices of the Guard, a collaboration with the Oregon National Guard and Clackamas Community College, published by the college in 2010. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine, Gulf Coast, Salamander, Blackbird, and The Cortland Review, among others. She was a winner of Nicholas Kristof’s Iraq War Poetry Contest, and her poem appeared in his column, entitled “The Poets of War,” in June, 2007. She was the Barbara and Andrew Senchak Fellow at MacDowell for 2015-2016, a Finalist for the National Poetry Series in 2019, and a Finalist for the 2020 Pablo Neruda Prize. Her poems have been featured on NPR, PBS NewsHour and Verse Daily. She teaches an on-going poetry writing class at Himan Brown Senior Program at the 92NY in NYC where she is Poet-in-Residence.