this is not somewhere else but here

trees at the Gorge
 
This poem by Adrienne Rich reminds me of of the fragile paradise Denise Levertov describes in a piece I posted last year at around the same time. If you have a moment, read the two side by side. And if you have another moment, listen to Adrienne Rich read this particular poem here
 
 
“What Kind of Times Are These”
 
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
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language uncommon and agile as truth

adriennerich_newbioimage

“For This”

If I’ve reached for your lines (I have)
like letters from the dead that stir the nerves
dowsed you for a springhead
to water my thirst
dug into my compost skeletons and petals
you surely meant to catch the light:

-at work in my wormeaten wormwood-raftered
stateless underground
have I a plea?

If I’ve touched your finger
with a ravenous tongue
licked from your palm a rift of salt
if I’ve dreamt or thought you
a pack of blood fresh-drawn
hanging darkred from a hook
higher than my heart
(you who understand transfusion)
where else should I appeal?

A pilot light lies low
while the gas jets sleep
(a cat getting toed from stove
into nocturnal ice)
language uncommon and agile as truth
melts down the most intractable silence

A lighthouse keeper’s ethics:
you tend for all or none
for this you might set your furniture on fire
A this we have blundered over
as if the lamp could be shut off at will
rescue denied for some

and still a lighthouse be

–Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)

 

The world tells me I am its creature

We will miss you, Adrienne Rich (1929-2012).

picture of poet Adrienne Rich

from The Dream of a Common Language

1.

My body opens over San Francisco like the day –

light raining down      each pore crying the change of light

I am not with her     I have been waking off and on

all night to that pain     not simply absence but

the presence of the past      destructive

to living here and now      Yet if I could instruct

myself, if we could learn to learn from pain

even as it grasps us      if the mind, the mind that lives

in this body could refuse      to let itself be crushed

in that grasp     it would loosen      Pain would have to stand

off from me and listen     its dark breath still on me

but the mind could begin to speak to pain

and pain would have to answer:

We are older now

we have met before     these are my hands before your eyes

my figure blotting out      all that is not mine

I am the pain of division      creator of divisions

it is I who blot your lover from you

and not the time-zones or the miles

It is not separation calls me forth      but I

who am separation      And remember

I have no existence      apart from you

2.

I believe I am choosing something now

not to suffer uselessly     yet still to feel

Does the infant memorize the body of the mother

and create her in absence?     or simply cry

primordial loneliness?      does the bed of the stream

once diverted      mourning       remember the wetness?

But we, we live so much in these

configurations of the past      I choose

to separate her     from my past we have not shared

I choose not to suffer uselessly

to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me

flashing its bleak torch in my eyes     blotting out

her particular being     the details of her love

I will not be divided      from her or from myself

by myths of separation

while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me

than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning      on these hills

3.

The world tells me I am its creature

I am raked by eyes     brushed by hands

I want to crawl into her for refuge     lay my head

in the space     between her breast and shoulder

abnegating power for love

as women have done      or hiding

from power in her love     like a man

I refuse these givens      the splitting

between love and action      I am choosing

not to suffer uselessly      and not to use her

I choose to love      this time      for once

with all my intelligence.