Black Madonna

I am black and beautiful,
++O daughters of Jerusalem,
like the tents of Kedar,
++like the curtains of Solomon.
Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
++because the sun has gazed on me.
Song of Solomon 1:5 – 6


I am the Mother Goddess—
soot black and beautiful
modestly covered, merciful
me, dense Gabon ebony
I am the end of journeys
I begin life, I am life,
revere me and my child,
never mind how he
came to be, he cannot
be without me, O daughters,
the sun, let it gaze upon
your skin, let it kiss
you as it has kissed
me, let it blacken you
to ash, O my daughters,
come to me: let me be
your pilgrimage, let
your eyes behold the
absence of whiteness
rejoice in the refusal
of alabaster! white marble!
I am Mother Goddess, I come
before all, never you mind
where my son comes from, only
you mind me.


Queen of Poland

The Queen of Poland, Mother of mothers,
survived a Tartar’s arrow and was taken
here, to Częstochowa. Enshrined.
Then the Hussites hounded her and her city
tried to take her.
The Queen of Poland stilled the horses.
She sustained a Hussite’s sword twice
before she protected herself.
The Swedes came, and the Queen of Poland
protected her monks for forty days
and nights.

The Queen of Poland’s skin is darkened
by the sun, by constant prayer, by candle soot,
by years and years of resisting.
This is how she is black:
+++Like “the tents of Kedar”
+++and cloths of Solomon,
she is.
She is black.
Like Ethiopian nomads
avoiding men from the West.
She is black.

She is black.

She is black.


Notre Dame de Pilar

In Chartres

Take our lady++++Prenez notre dame
+++retake our lady+++Reprendez notre dame
+++brighten our lady+++++illuminez notre dame
+++recast our lady+++++++refondez notre dame
+++make our lady+++++++faites notre dame
++++++white as snow.++++Blanc neige.

Make our lady+++Faites notre dame
+++into your lady++++dans votre dame
+++unmake our lady++demontez notre dame
+++from her own lady+de sa propere dame
+++turn our Lady++++changez notre Dame
++++++into just a lady.
+++en seulement une dame.

Click here to read DeMisty Bellinger on the origin of the poem.

Image: Black Madonna, Chartres Cathedral by Larry Koester, licensed under CC 2.0.

DeMisty Bellinger:
Dr. Kisha Tracy, a medievalist who also happens to be my colleague, brought to my attention through her own art and studies the phenomenon of the Black Madonna. It was a few years ago, so I don’t remember exactly which Madonna I learned about first. I want to say it was the one in Chartres, France, who was famously painted white during the restoration of the cathedral there. Since then, I’ve learned of the Black Madonnas throughout the world, and how Christians make pilgrimages to these statues. I was really taken with the Madonna in Poland, and wanted to share her amazing story.

This poem is part of a larger cycle of ekphrasis work, though this particular poem is not about one specific piece of art. And since the source material includes various artworks, the bible, and history, I felt that a poem in three parts would work best. Also, since a lot of medieval Christian paintings were triptych paintings, I thought I would try to mimic that in verse. Sort of.

Finally, I didn’t try to write a religious poem, but a poem of erasure of Blackness and of history. I did a lot of research of the Black Madonna before writing anything, and when I sat down to write it, I wanted it to feel like praying or a psalm. I wanted repetition and the melody.

DeMisty Bellinger
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