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From an Atlas of the Difficult World
Adrienne Rich


I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
My swirling wants. Your frozen lips.
The grammar turned and attacked me.
Themes, written under duress.
Emptiness of the notations.

They gave me a drug that slowed the healing of wounds.

I want you to see this before I leave:
the experience of repetition as death
the failure of criticism to locate the pain
the poster in the bus that said:
my bleeding is under control

A red plant in a cemetery of plastic wreaths.

A last attempt: the language is a dialect called metaphor.
These images go unglossed: hair, glacier, flashlight.
When I think of a landscape I am thinking of a time.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
I could say: those mountains have a meaning
but further than that I could not say.

To do something very common, in my own way.

–Adrienne Rich.
mercifulserpent: (Default)
 
 
Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev

(leader of a woman's climbing team, all of whom died in a storm on Lenin Peak, August 1974. Later, Shatayev's husband found and buried the bodies.)

The cold felt cold until our blood
grew colder      then the wind
died down and we slept

If in this sleep I speak
it's with a voice no longer personal
(I want to say      with voices)
When the wind tore      our breath from us at last
we had no need of words
For months      for years      each one of us
had felt her own yes      growing in her
slowly forming      as she stood at windows      waited
for trains      mended her rucksack      combed her hair
What we were to learn      was simply      what we had
up here      as out of all words      that yes      gathered
its forces      fused itself      and only just in time
to meet a No of no degrees
the black hole      sucking the world in

I feel you climbing toward me
your cleated bootsoles leaving      their geometric bite
colossally embossed      on microscopic crystals
as when I trailed you in the Caucasus
Now I am further
ahead      than either of us dreamed      anyone would be
I have become
the white snow packed like asphalt by the wind
the women I love      lightly flung      against the mountain
that blue sky
our frozen eyes unribboned      through the storm
we could have stitched that blueness      together      like a quilt

You come (I know this)      with your love      your loss
strapped to your body      with your tape-recorder      camera
ice-pick      against advisement
to give us burial in the snow      and in your mind
While my body lies out here
flashing like a prism      into your eyes
how could you sleep      You climbed here for yourself
we climbed for ourselves

When you have buried us      told your story
Ours does not end      we stream
into the unfinished      the unbegun
the possible
Every cell's core of heat      pulsed out of us
into the thin air      of the universe
the armature of rock beneath these snows
this mountain      which has taken      the imprint of our minds
through changes elemental and minute
as those we underwent
to bring each other here
choosing ourselves      each other      and this life
whose every breath      and grasp      and further foothold
is somewhere      still enacted      and continuing

In the diary I wrote: Now we are ready
and each of us knows it      I have never loved
like this      I have never seen
my own forces so taken up and shared
and given back
After the long training      the early sieges
we are moving almost effortlessly in our love


In the diary as the wind      began to tear
at the tents over us      I wrote:
We know now we have always been in danger
down in our separateness
and now up here together      but till now
we had not touched our strength


In the diary torn from my fingers I had written:
What does love mean
what does it mean      "to survive"
A cable of blue fire ropes our bodies
burning together in the snow      We will not live
to settle for less      We have dreamed of this
all of our lives


-Adrienne Rich
mercifulserpent: (Default)
For The Dead
Adrienne Rich

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight
mercifulserpent: (Default)
I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


 

mercifulserpent: (Default)
  "Tattered Kaddish"

Taurean reaper of the wild apple field
messenger from earthmire gleaning
transcripts of fog
in the nineteenth year and the eleventh month
speak your tattered Kaddish for all suicides:

Praise to life though it crumbled in like a tunnel
on ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though its windows blew shut
on the breathing-room of ones we knew and loved

Praise to life though ones we knew and loved
loved it badly, too well, and not enough

Praise to life though it tightened like a knot
on the hearts of ones we thought we knew loved us

Praise to life giving room and reason
to ones we knew and lived who felt unpraisable

Praise to them, how they loved it, when they could.

--Adrienne Rich
mercifulserpent: (Default)
SONG

You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.

You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I'm lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn's first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning

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