by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich

Piece by piece I seem
to re-enter the world: I first began

a small, fixed dot, I still can see
that old myself, a darkblue thumbtack

pushed into the scene, 
a hard little head protruding

from the pointillist’s buzz and bloom.
After a time the dot

begins to ooze. Certain heats
melt it.
Now I was hurriedly

blurring into ranges
of burnt red, burning green,

whole biographies swam up and
swallowed me like Jonah—

Jonah! I was Wittgenstein,
Mary Wollstonecraft, the soul

of Louis Jouvet, dead
in a blown-up photograph.

Till, wolfed almost to shreds,
I learned to make myself

unappetizing. Scaly as a dry bulb
thrown into a cellar

I used myself, let nothing use me.
Like being on a private dole,

sometimes more like cutting bricks in Egypt.
What life was there, was mine,

now and again to lay
one hand on a warm brick

and touch the sun’s ghost
with economical joy.

Such much for those days. Soon
practice may make me middling-perfect, I’ll

dare inhabit the world
trenchant in motion as an eel, solid

as a cabbage-head. I have invitations:
a curl of mist steams upward

from the fields, visible as my breath,
houses along a road stand waiting

like old women knitting, breathless
to tell their tales.

Last updated April 28, 2023