Rest in peace, Adrienne Rich.

You moved me and changed my world for the better with your words.

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Power

Living in the earth-deposits of our history

Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate.

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Today I was reading about Marie Curie:
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil

She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
denying
her wounds came from the same source as her power.

Adrienne Rich, 1929 – 2012

Adrienne Rich, you wrote beautiful things that spoke to me as a woman, as a human being, and I hope you died knowing, never denying that your wounds came from the same source as your power.

[Author’s note: I’d originally started a draft of this post in order to talk about the poem itself, to discuss our wounds as a source of power, but now I want to post it as it is as a tribute to Ms. Rich. Maybe I will discuss the poem at another time. For now, I just want the poem to speak for itself now that she’s gone.]

4 thoughts on “Denying Our Wounds

  1. I loved her poems. She always blended the political-as a Jew, lesbian, woman- with the personal with fierce intelligence. For me, her poems were a landscape of the body. She claimed the body, owned it, gave it language.

    Various passages from “Twenty-One Love Poems” :

    “We’re not alone in the universe, even in sleep
    The dream-ghosts of two worlds
    Waiting their ghost-towers, almost address each other

    Our bodies, so alike, are yet so different
    And the past echoing through our bloodstreams
    If freighted with different language, different meanings-
    Though in any chronicle of the world we share
    It could be written with new meaning
    We were two lovers of one gender,
    We were two women of one generation.

    At twenty, yes: we thought we’d live forever.
    At forty-five, I want to know even our limits.
    I touch you knowing we weren’t born tomorrow,
    And somehow, each of us will help the other live,
    And somewhere, each of us must help the other die.”

    1. “She claimed the body, owned it, gave it language.”

      Wow, I loved the way you said that, M. That was very lovely, and the passages you posted are gorgeous. I just read some of those last week, not for the first time, and not for the last. Thank you for the comment!

  2. Your words are always eloquent, but Ms. Rich speaks very powerfully for herself. There can be no better tribute than her own words. Thank you. njs

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