Visitation Villanelle

I came across a villanelle a few weeks ago and it made me want to try my hand at one again. It’s a fun form, like a puzzle, definitely structured but not too strict. So a few days after the feast of the Visitation, I started working on this. I looked back at it today and was surprised how much I liked it. Enough to share it, I guess. I started it during an adoration hour at the local convent and looked it over again there today. It struck me in a new way how cool it is to be made to create, to bring beauty into the world, alongside the Creator.

Romare Bearden, The Visitation (1941)

The Visitation is the name given to the visit Mary pays her cousin Elizabeth just after she has said, “Let it be unto me according to your word,” and is newly pregnant with God Incarnate. Elizabeth is an older woman, but also miraculously pregnant, with St. John the Baptist. It’s a visit of powerhouse saints/Jesus/Mother of God/the Holy Spirit all there present together in two bodies as these women greet each other with joy. John leaps in Elizabeth’s belly and she is filled with the Holy Spirit when she hears Mary’s greeting. She shouts, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” She seems to help make real for Mary all that has just happened, and is happening inside her body. And Mary then breaks into song, praising God. Like she’s been given permission to feel all the feels about this now.

The Visitation (hand version)
James B. Janknegt, The Visitation (2008)

This is probably my favorite encounter in Scripture. It’s a little like that quote, “Behind every great woman is another great woman replying to her frantic texts in the middle of the night.” That’s what the Visitation is for me. An image of two great women, doing amazing things, helping each other in that moment of WTF is happening – can I really do this? Mary needed someone to have her back as she set about doing the impossible, and that someone was Elizabeth. To me, the story seems told from Elizabeth’s perspective, so that’s how the poem came out, too. I don’t normally share my poems at all – this feels very vulnerable! – but it also feels like it was meant to be shared. Maybe it’ll encourage you to do that creative thing you feel like you don’t have permission to do.

Mariotto Albertinelli


Janet McKenzie, Visitation 

Visitation Villanelle


She came to me, the mother of my Lord,

and grinned with amazement at the sight.

All creation with me seemed to roar.


Grey haired, belly swollen like a gourd,

I stood to kiss her in the morning light.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.


Her voice, as she crossed the threshold of my door,

rang through my womb –  from a great height,

all creation with me seemed to roar.


The baby leapt – tethered only by the cord.

The joy coursing through us! I shouted outright.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.


Already she faced her share of the sword

She who believed all God said would be, might –

All creation with me seemed to roar.


Blessed one! With your yes you moved us toward

the home we long for, and all things made right.

She came to me, the mother of my Lord.

All creation with me seemed to roar.

The Visitation icon

4 thoughts on “Visitation Villanelle”

  1. Sarah………this is so meaningful to me…….I became a Great Grandmother on two occasions during the past six months and they
    are such a gift to our family…….when I see pictures of them, yes, my heart leaps with JOY!! It is a divine connection and I cannot
    explain the JOY! Thank you for sharing, Carole Peer

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your poem and the introduction to how / when you wrote it. It was chosen for me to read today at our Christmas dinner at George W Truett Theological Seminary by other members of the Truett Women In Ministry. I wanted to read more about this poem and in my researching I came across and article which linked your blog. Thank you for sharing your work for us to enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

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