Turbulence by Adrienne Rich

There’ll be turbulence.    You’ll drop
your book to hold your
water bottle steady.     Your
mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall
may who ne’er hung there let him
watch the movie.     The plane’s
supposed to shudder, shoulder on
like this.    It’s built to do that.   You’re
designed to tremble too.    Else break
Higher you climb, trouble in mind
lungs labor, heights hurl vistas
Oxygen hangs ready
overhead.   In the event put on
the child’s mask first.   Breathe normally

-from Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, 2011 National Book Award Finalist

Homage to Ghalib by Adrienne Rich

“8/4/68”

– for Aijaz Ahmad

If these are letters, they will have to be misread.
If scribblings on a wall, they must tangle with all the others.

Fuck reds       Black Power     Angel loves Rosita
— and a transistor radio answers in Spanish: Night must fall.

Prisoners, soldiers, crouching as always, writing,
explaining the unforgivable to a wife, a mother, a lover.

Those faces are blurred and some have turned away
to which I used to address myself so hotly

How is it, Ghalib, that your grief, resurrected in pieces,
has found its way to this room from your dark house in Delhi?

When they read this poem of mine, they are translators.
Every existence speaks a language of its own.

(Source: diligentcandy.com)

Adrienne Rich (by Alison Bechdel)

Adrienne Rich (by Alison Bechdel)

North American Time, Adrienne Rich

I
When my dreams showed signs
of becoming
politically correct
no unruly images
escaping beyond border
when walking in the street I found my
themes cut out for me
knew what I would not report
for fear of enemies’ usage
then I began to wonder

II
Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms,
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
One line typed twenty years ago
can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint
glorify art as detachment
or torture of those we
did not love but also
did not want to kill

We move     but our words stand
become responsible
and this is verbal privilege

III
Try sitting at a typewriter
one calm summer evening
at a table by a window
in the country, try pretending
your time does not exist
that you are simply you
that the imagination simply strays
like a great moth, unintentional
try telling yourself
you are not accountable
to the life of your tribe
the breath of your planet

IV
It doesn’t matter what you think.
Words are found responsible
all you can do is choose them
or choose
to remain silent. Or, you never had a choice,
which is why the words that do stand
are responsible
and this is verbal privilege

V
Suppose you want to write
of a woman braiding
another woman’s hair—
staightdown, or with beads and shells
in three-strand plaits or corn-rows—
you had better know the thickness
the length     the pattern
why she decides to braid her hair
how it is done to her
what country it happens in
what else happens in that country

You have to know these things

VI
Poet, sister: words—
whether we like it or not—
stand in a time of their own.
no use protesting     I wrote that
before Kollontai was exiled
Rosa Luxembourg, Malcolm,
Anna Mae Aquash, murdered,
before Treblinka, Birkenau,
Hiroshima, before Sharpeville,
Biafra, Bangla Desh, Boston,
Atlanta, Soweto, Beirut, Assam
—those faces, names of places
sheared from the almanac
of North American time

VII
I am thinking this in a country
where words are stolen out of mouths
as bread is stolen out of mouths
where poets don’t go to jail
for being poets, but for being
dark-skinned, female, poor.
I am writing this in a time
when anything we write
can be used against those we love
where the context is never given
though we try to explain, over and over
For the sake of poetry at least
I need to know these things

VIII
Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has rage onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stair, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.

IX
In North America time stumbles on
without moving, only releasing
a certain North American pain.
Julia de Burgos wrote:
That my grandfather was a slave
is my grief; had he been a master
that would have been my shame.
A poet’s words, hung over a door
in North America, in the year
nineteen-eighty-three.
The almost-full moon rises
timeless speaking of change
out of the Bronx, the Harlem River
the drowned towns of the Quabbin
the pilfered burial mounds
the toxic swamps, the testing-grounds
and I start to speak again.

(Source: emilydickinson.org)

Diving into the Wreck, Adrienne Rich

First having read the book of myths,
and loaded the camera,
and checked the edge of the knife-blade,
I put on
the body-armor of black rubber
the absurd flippers
the grave and awkward mask.
I am having to do this
not like Cousteau with his
assiduous team
aboard the sun-flooded schooner
but here alone.

There is a ladder.
The ladder is always there
hanging innocently
close to the side of the schooner.
We know what it is for,
we who have used it.
Otherwise
it is a piece of maritime floss
some sundry equipment.

I go down.
Rung after rung and still
the oxygen immerses me
the blue light
the clear atoms
of our human air.
I go down.
My flippers cripple me,
I crawl like an insect down the ladder
and there is no one
to tell me when the ocean
will begin.

First the air is blue and then
it is bluer and then green and then
black I am blacking out and yet
my mask is powerful
it pumps my blood with power
the sea is another story
the sea is not a question of power
I have to learn alone
to turn my body without force
in the deep element.

And now: it is easy to forget
what I came for
among so many who have always
lived here
swaying their crenellated fans
between the reefs
and besides
you breathe differently down here.

I came to explore the wreck.
The words are purposes.
The words are maps.
I came to see the damage that was done
and the treasures that prevail.
I stroke the beam of my lamp
slowly along the flank
of something more permanent
than fish or weed

the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and away into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.

This is the place.
And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he

whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes
whose breasts still bear the stress
whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies
obscurely inside barrels
half-wedged and left to rot
we are the half-destroyed instruments
that once held to a course
the water-eaten log
the fouled compass

We are, I am, you are
by cowardice or courage
the one who find our way
back to this scene
carrying a knife, a camera
a book of myths
in which
our names do not appear.

(Source: poets.org)

Power, Adrienne Rich

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.

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.

(Source: poemhunter.com)

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

(Source: feministphilosophers.wordpress.com)

The Burning of Paper instead of Children, Adrienne Rich
I was in danger of verbalizing my
moral impulses out of existence.
            —Daniel Berrigan, on trial in Baltimore

1. My neighbor, a scientist and art-collector, telephones me in a state of violent emotion. He tells me that my son and his, aged eleven and twelve, have on the last day of school burned a mathematics textbook in the backyard. He has forbidden my son to come to his house for a week, and has forbidden his own son to leave the house during that time. “The burning of a book,” he says, “arouses terrible sensations in me, memories of Hitler; there are few things that upset me so much as the idea of burning a book.”

Back there: the library, walled
with green Britannicas
Looking again
in Durer’s Complete Works
for MELANCOLIA, the baffled woman

the crocodiles in Herodotus
the Book of the Dead
the Trial of Jeanne d’Arc, so blue
I think, It is her color

and they take the book away
because I dream of her too often
love and fear in a house
knowledge of the oppressor
I know it hurts to burn

2. To imagine a time of silence
or few words
a time of chemistry and music

the hollows above your buttocks
traced by my hand
or, hair is like flesh, you said

an age of long silence

relief

from this tongue this slab of limestone
or reinforced concrete
fanatics and traders
dumped on this coast wildgreen clayred
that breathed once
in signals of smoke
sweep of the wind

knowledge of the oppressor
this is the oppressor’s language

yet I need it to talk to you

3. People suffer highly in poverty and it takes dignity and intelligence to overcome this suffering. Some of the suffering are: a child did not had dinner last night: a child steal because he did not have money to buy it: to hear a mother say she do not have money to buy food for her children and to see a child without cloth it will make tears in your eyes.

(the fracture of order
the repair of speech
to overcome this suffering)

4. We lie under the sheet
after making love, speaking
of loneliness
relieved in a book
relived in a book
so on that page
the clot and fissure
of it appears
words of a man
in pain
a naked word
entering the clot
a hand grasping
through bars:

deliverance

What happens between us
has happened for centuries
we know it from literature

still it happens

sexual jealousy
outflung hand
beating bed

dryness of mouth
after panting

there are books that describe all this
and they are useless

You walk into the woods behind a house
there in that country
you find a temple
built eighteen hundred years ago
you enter without knowing
what it is you enter

so it is with us

no one knows what may happen
though the books tell everything

burn the texts said Artaud

5. I am composing on the typewriter late at night, thinking of today. How well we all spoke. A language is a map of our failures. Frederick Douglass wrote an English purer than Milton’s. People suffer highly in poverty. There are methods but we do not use them. Joan, who could not read, spoke some peasant form of French. Some of the suffering are: it is hard to tell the truth; this is America; I cannot touch you now. In America we have only the present tense. I am in danger. You are in danger. The burning of a book arouses no sensation in me. I know it hurts to burn. There are flames of napalm in Catonsville, Maryland. I know it hurts to burn. The typewriter is overheated, my mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor’s language.

(via babybirch)

Vale Adrienne Rich

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.

(Source: youtube.com)

hysteriarama:

I keep returning to male approval as something that infuriates me leaves me feeling helpless and crazy and abject and desperate because my feminism is always tainted and complicit. I feel traitorous all the time. I wonder if everyone else does too. I wonder how I’m supposed to reconcile my conflicting desires. This is a quote from my fifteen-year-old diary: “I want to write but not to die. I want to fuck but not to die. I don’t want to be a human sacrifice”. 

My favorite quote at that age which I found in an Adrienne Rich poem which I found in the Norton Anthology of Literature by Women which I found on my mother’s bookshelf which saved my life: “You all die at fifteen” (Rich quoting Diderot talking to Sophie Volland). I say favorite but I mean I was obsessed I’d smoke pot with my best friends in forests after our Animal Farm rehearsal and then I’d have to leave and I’d hate my life and carve that quote on my bedroom wall and hide it under a Leonard Cohen poster so my dad wouldn’t yell at me for fucking up the walls. I wrote it all over my binder and on my thigh after baths which felt tragic and sexual. I ranted about it to my faithful best friend, a scruffy little blonde boy who years later I would write heaps of poetry for, totally bitter and dejected because I thought he was on my side but he stopped calling, got taller, we couldn’t cope with each other’s bodies anymore and it was like he was a man and everyone loved him for being an artist and not me and it was so unfair.

Anyways I keep thinking I’m over wanting that approval and sometimes I feel hopeful but it’s late and attachment is so complicated. This is also the story of my privilege, Adrienne Rich talks about the same thing when she says, “we have liked to think of ourselves as special, and we have known that men would tolerate, even romanticize us as special”. There may be ways in, there are sometimes ways in, they are unacceptable and I use them all the time and when I don’t I resent my marginalization.

I am continually tempted to compromise myself in ways that would be fulfilling and intolerable, sometimes I know it and I do it anyways, sometimes I don’t, sometimes I don’t realize but I do it all the same, and that says so much about what I value, and that says so much about the power I wield and the ways that I’m lucky and humiliating

Dialogue, Adrienne Rich

She sits with one hand poised against her head, the
other turning an old ring to the light
for hours our talk has beaten
like rain against the screens
a sense of August and heat-lightning
I get up, go to make tea, come back
we look at each other
then she says (and this is what I live through
over and over)—she says: I do not know
if sex is an illusion

I do not know
who I was when I did those things
or who I said I was
or whether I willed to feel
what I had read about
or who in fact was there with me
or whether I knew, even then
that there was doubt about these things -

(via alinapleskova)

Let’s start with the title, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve.

The book has an epigraph from Webster’s Dictionary: definitions of the verb “to serve.” It’s an interesting range of meanings, from the idea of obedient servitude to the authoritative (from law, the military, a prison sentence), to the meeting of another’s needs, to being of use. The title poem begins with an erotic moment registered in a world of torture and violence. It turns, midway, from the sensual and “poetic” to an official grammar, parsing violent policies as you might diagram a sentence in a classroom.

The poem was inflected, you could say, by interviews I was hearing on Amy Goodman’s program, Democracy Now!—about Guantánamo, waterboarding, official U.S. denials of torture, the “renditioning” of presumed terrorists to countries where they would inevitably be tortured. The line “Tonight I think no poetry will serve” suggests that no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself. One begins to write of the sensual body, but other bodies “elsewhere” are terribly present.
A Valediction Forbidding Mourning, Adrienne Rich

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.

(Source: proustitute)

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, Adrienne Rich

Saw you walking barefoot
taking a long look
at the new moon’s eyelid

later spread
sleep-fallen, naked in your dark hair
asleep but not oblivious
of the unslept unsleeping
elsewhere

Tonight I think
no poetry
will serve

Syntax of rendition:

verb pilots the plane
adverb modifies action

verb force-feeds noun
submerges the subject
noun is choking
verb    disgraced    goes on doing

now diagram the sentence

(Source: poets.org)

Song, Adrienne Rich

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
dawns’ 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

(via annarchy) (via grammatolatry)

(Source: theoryoflostthings)