Frances Richey

St. Bonaventure and Spring Birthday Romance
October 20, 2020 Richey Frances

St. Bonaventure
Merton’s last stop in the world
before the monastery.
He understood flowers,
sewn signatures, bright
15th century choir books—
wine, blood, bread, flesh—
the goat skin,
the singing.
One side of the page
the hair side,
the flesh side inside.
Dark and light.
How does anyone reconcile
what they have to do to live?


Spring Birthday Romance
Jane has given me a bluebird, Mrs. Dalloway, a meadow, Jo, an ode to my hair. Jane admires
Mrs. Dalloway’s black earrings; I turn on the flashlight in my phone to read Jo’s card. Lines
from Ferlinghetti: “The little airplanes of the heart/with their brave little propellers…”
We share spring lamb, wild salmon redolent with memory of the desperate swim upstream.
Mrs. Dalloway and Jane order sapphire martinis. Jo and I drink Spanish wine. We all admire
how the twine around Jo’s wrapping paper picks up the pastel blues and yellows of its tiny
flowers—periwinkle paper that reminds me of dresses I wore when I was small.
What treasures they’ve brought me: Forche’s new memoir, silver earrings,
a thin yellow journal, a cache of lavender. Mrs. Dalloway has made her own gift-paper,
dark-haired women lounging in a park.
We try to take pictures, but the room is gauzy-gold with candlelight.
Each year we look more like our ancestors caught in amber, heirs to lemon cake, chocolate
Sundays. Saved for last; lattes, cappuccinos, chocolate wafers wrapped in three naked ladies
standing in black heels at the bar.
Black and white suit them, season after season, their dimpled cheeks, sans airbrush, ample
gamines from the twenties who encourage us to strip down to our secrets—little shells in
boxes we open through the evening one by one.
I’m grateful for the laughter, pulling bags from higher shelves, hangers flying, (no one gets
hurt!), hair-swishing that wakes an old man up from his dinner with Nancy R. to feel the air
around him disturbed—yes! he’s perturbed, but alive!
I always leave something; a scarf, my gloves. Once I left my black cashmere coat, the one I
bought years ago when I had a little dough. Tonight it was a straw hat with a broad brim to
shade my face from sunlight.

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.