In the Wake of Home

by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich

You sleep in a room with bluegreen curtains
posters a pile of animals on the bed
A woman and a man who love you
and each other slip the door ajar
you are almost asleep they crouch in turn
to stroke your hair you never wake

This happens every night for years.
This never happened.

Your lips steady never say
It should have been this way
That’s not what you say
You so carefully not asking, Why?
Your eyes looking straight in mine
remind me of a woman’s
auburn hair my mother’s hair
but you never saw that hair

The family coil so twisted, tight and loose
anyone trying to leave
has to strafe the field
burn the premise down


But you will be drawn to places
where generations lie
side by side with each other:
fathers, mothers and children
in the family prayerbook
or the country burying-ground
You will hack your way back through the bush
to the Jodensavanne
where the gravestones are black with mould
You will stare at old family albums
with their smiles their resemblances
You will want to believe that nobody
wandered off became strange
no woman dropped her baby and ran
no father took off for the hills
no axe splintered the door
—that once at least it was all in order
and nobody came to grief.

Your Native Land, Your Life

Last updated February 18, 2023