Imagining Piero’s Madonna In The California Desert


Note — The work of Renaissance artist, Piero Della Francesca, is celebrated for his use of gold light, striking angels and Divinity portrayed through a variety of holy Madonnas. Often, the holy Mother is presented by two angels on either side drawing open beautiful curtains.. It is to convey a feeling of revelation, of  sudden awareness to the presence of someone sacred and eternal.  I have imagined how Piero might paint his Madonna in the California Desert, more like a nomadic woman, imbued with a sense of humanity and grace, while surrounded by alms for the  needy as crows draw back the long darkness of night and the wild, desert morning glory or bindweed swallows the morning chill. Her mere presence in this field of dust and dryness gives birth to awareness of dearth and yet hope. The painting chosen for this piece is by Sarah Zind, a contemporary landscape of a woman in the desert.


On your canvass,

angels would swoop in

as crows pulling back

the long drapery of night; the white throats

of bindweed swallowing

the early chill — and then

you would paint her

poised under a Joshua tree.

Bags of mission clothing

and cookware swollen around her body,

mist sufficing for a veil

while sun-bleached hair

tangles in the wind, and an unstrung rosary

of berries and burrs

spilling from her hand. Her fingers

left stained & scratched, the pigment of sacrifice,

the subtle scraping off

of her mortality.




  1. “an unstrung rosary

    of berries and burrs”


    Your poem is spiritual and all seeing. The painting is haunting,
    the poem even more so. You paint ‘the pigment of sacrifice’
    using a pen with a heart and a soul. Each poem you write seems
    to come from deeper and deeper within that we may see with
    your exquisite vision.

    Thank you,



  2. Dear Sarah

    As always your words brighten my literary outlook and enrich what I write. Thank you so much for all you do and for taking a continual interest in my work! It means so very much!

    Take care
    my best always


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