From the collection “Twenty-One Love Poems” (1978)
by Adrienne Rich
I come home from you through the early light of Spring
flashing off ordinary walls, the Pez Dorado,
the Discount Wares, the shoe-store…I’m lugging my sack
of groceries, I dash for the elevator
where a man, taut, elderly, carefully composed
lets the door almost close on me. – For god’s sake hold it!
I croak at him – Hysterical, – he breathes my way.
I let myself into the kitchen, unload my bundles,
make coffee, open the window, put on Nina Simone
singing Here Comes the Sun…I open the mail,
drinking delicious coffee, delicious music,
my body still both light and heavy with you. The mail,
lets fall a Xerox of something written by a man
aged 27, a hostage, tortured in prison:
My genitals have been the object of such a sadistic display
they keep me constantly awake with the pain…
Do whatever you can to survive.
You know, I think men love wars…
And my incurable anger, my unmendable wounds
break open further with tears, I am crying helplessly,
and they still control the world, and you are not in my arms.
About Adrienne Rich from VirgoText:
About Rich’s work, the poet W.S. Merwin has said, “All her life she has been in love with the hope of telling utter truth, and her command of language from the first has been startlingly powerful.”
Rich has received the Bollingen Prize, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the National Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship; she is also a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
In 1997, she refused the National Medal of Arts, stating that “I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art, as I understand it, is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration.” She went on to say: “[Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage.”