Our story is of moments when even slow motion moved too fast

illustration of a heart at crossroads
Illustration by Kristina Closs

“For an Album” by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

Our story isn’t a file of photographs
faces laughing under green leaves
or snowlit doorways, on the verge of driving
away, our story is not about women
victoriously perched on the one
sunny day of the conference,
nor lovers displaying love:

Our story is of moments when even slow motion moved too fast
for the shutter of the camera:
words that blew our lives apart, like so,
eyes that cut and caught each other,
mime of the operating room
where gas and knives quote each other
moments before the telephone
starts ringing: our story is
how still we stood,
how fast.

what would it mean to not possess a permeable skin?

There is no poet who brings me to all of my senses in this physical world quite like the magnificent Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).

 
adrienne-rich-sized

“Itinerary”

i.

Burnt by lightning      nevertheless
she’ll walk this terra infinita

lashes singed on her third eye
searching definite shadows      for an indefinite future

Old shed-boards beaten silvery hang
askew as sheltering
some delicate indefensible existence

Long grasses shiver in a vanished doorway’s draft
a place of origins      as yet unclosured and unclaimed

Writing cursive instructions on abounding air

If you arrive with ripe pears, bring a sharpened knife
Bring cyanide with the honeycomb

              call before you come

ii.

Let the face of the bay be violet black the tumbled torn
kelp necklaces strewn alongshore

Stealthily over time arrives the chokehold
stifling ocean’s guttural chorales
                                        a tangle
of tattered plastic rags

iii.

In a physical world the great poverty would be
to live insensate      shuttered against the fresh

slash of urine on a wall
low-tidal rumor of a river’s yellowed mouth
a tumor-ridden face asleep on a subway train

What would it mean to not possess
a permeable skin
explicit veil to wander in

iv.

A cracked shell crumbles.
Sun moon and salt dissect the faint
last grains

An electrical impulse zings
out      ricochets
in meta-galactic orbits

a streak of nervous energy rejoins the crucible
where origins and endings meld

There was this honey-laden question mark
this thread extracted from the open
throat of existence—Lick it clean!
—let it evaporate—

If you think you can grasp me, think again

A spare but commanding piece from one of my favorite poetic powerhouses, Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).

“Delta”

If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through it for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again;
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the river bed
with its five fingers spread.