Frances Richey

The Seven Mysteries of Our-Lady Madonna
March 22, 2021 Richey Frances

The Seven Mysteries of Our-Lady


The Virgin of the Rosary               Esteban Murillo


They emerge out of distance,
their faces lit, their eyes
like the eyes of the mothers and children
before separation at the border.
Nothing is going to save them;
not the rosary draped across his shoulder,
wound through her fingers; not the royal blue
fabric falling in folds from the bench,
not the hint of a thin gold scarf at her crown.
Unnaturally pale, we know they were darker.




Madonna and Child
c1470 Sandro Botticelli


He stands in her lap, looks up into her face,
his right elbow resting on her left shoulder
as if they’re buddies at a bar. She can’t look
at him. She stares into the brown ledge
that separates them from any hope
of normal life. The celestial sparkle painted
on the shoulder of her blue cloak already
marks her as a gold-star mother.





The Madonna of the Carnation
Bernardino Luini


The language of grief was meant to be spoken
through the eyes. Words fall impotent on the ears
of a migrant child who can see his future outside
the frame. He holds a meager flower,
considers his options in its ragged petals.
And she, no more than a teenager,
looks into his crown with the pity of a God.





Madonna of the Goldfinch
c1506  Raphael


To be born with a single mission
so set that a bird can travel back
through time from the hour
of your death to rest in the hand
of your cousin, both of you barely
toddlers. And safe at your mother’s feet,
you can touch his black and gold
tipped wings, his face already red
with your blood.





Madonna and Child


What are the pages made of?
This Book of Hours she was reading
when the angel appeared
to brief her. That a peasant girl, barely
a teen, in that time, could read
seems almost as fantastic
as the boy on her knee who reads with her




Madonna and Child
Carlo Crivelli


Is there a heavier burden than to be born perfect?
Some Gods mark their children with a scar
to protect them from the jealousy of others,
not least, the watchful eyes of imperfect mothers.
Best to make the mother perfect too,
who’ll nurse him with her perfect milk, sing him
perfect lullabies, stand aside when he must leave
to join his Father’s enterprise.




The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne
Leonardo DaVinci


You do everything right, and still,
you will lose him.
He will slide off your knees
toward the ground
though you’re still holding on.
Those frosty mountains in the background
betray a world behind the world
you came from
where the lamb whose ear he fondles
was once a saint.
Even your mother, in her veil of mist,
can’t save him.
This precipice was not your choice,
but it’s where you live.

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.