Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Frances Richey offers Insight on “The Warrior”


Deep in the bowels of the Macaulay Honors College Building on November 11, 2008 we were privy to a small and intimate reading of Frances Richey poems by none other than Mrs. Richey herself.

She smiled somewhat nervously at the audience and adjusted her purple cardigan set. She beamed at them with her eyes smiling through her square lenses. There was not much to set her apart from an average benevolent looking middle age woman as I observed her from the second row. That was until she started to talk about her son directly and through her poems.

She described her place in history as a Vietnam War dissenter and acknowledged that, “I am very liberal.”  She then paused as she described her son as part of the military, a green beret, “you know one of those guys”. Although her son is currently no longer in the military it is almost as if she never fully reconciled that fact. Her son went against her ideals of peace. In her attempt to express her sadness and emotion at the disintegration of their communication and relationship she wrote these poems. She wrote a series of poems that were written into and collected into the book “The Warrior”.

              She firmly asserted that this book was not “a political book”. In the “Aztec Empire” she compares the gore of war to the crude sacrifices of the now extinct Aztec Culture. She read, “Before he was a warrior, he was a boy/Before he drank blood, he drank milk” with a barely discernable tremor in her voice. Her ambivalence to the war in Iraq is reflective of her son’s participation in it. He may be a warrior but he was also once an obedient son. Before her son killed people, she gave him life. She could not condemn her own son even at the expense of compromising her own “liberal” beliefs. The love of a mother to a son is stronger and more resilient even when it comes to compromising views on a war.

Mrs. Richey and her son had their disagreements as he grew up and that even though he was born in a pacifist household he chose to go to a West Point, A military school. Richey is her own individual because of her son.

Frances Richey’s plight is none other than that of a mother trying to reconcile her differences with her son through her art. Her art is poetry. Her form is free, as it fits no other mould. Her writing took a departure form industrial sales where she first started career wise to the refuge of free verse.  The grief of a mother estranged from a son who seemed determined to undermine her ideals in every way, cannot be labeled so simply. Her ability to successfully share her fears and forge a connection with not only with her son but everyone in general is inspirational.