Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership



Best Famous Adrienne Rich Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Adrienne Rich poems. This is a select list of the best famous Adrienne Rich poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Adrienne Rich poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Adrienne Rich poems.

Search for the best famous Adrienne Rich poems, articles about Adrienne Rich poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Adrienne Rich poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See also: Best Member Poems

by Adrienne Rich | |

Aunt Jennifers Tigers

 Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen, 
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree; They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.
Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.
When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Living In Sin

 She had thought the studio would keep itself;
no dust upon the furniture of love.
Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal, the panes relieved of grime.
A plate of pears, a piano with a Persian shawl, a cat stalking the picturesque amusing mouse had risen at his urging.
Not that at five each separate stair would writhe under the milkman's tramp; that morning light so coldly would delineate the scraps of last night's cheese and three sepulchral bottles; that on the kitchen shelf amoong the saucers a pair of beetle-eyes would fix her own-- envoy from some village in the moldings.
.
.
Meanwhile, he, with a yawn, sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard, declared it out of tune, shrugged at the mirror, rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes; while she, jeered by the minor demons, pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found a towel to dust the table-top, and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove.
By evening she was back in love again, though not so wholly but throughout the night she woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming like a relentless milkman up the stairs.


by Adrienne Rich | |

A Valediction Forbidding Mourning

 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 cemetary 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.


More great poems below...

by Adrienne Rich | |

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

 Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through there is always the risk of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly and you must look back and let them happen.
If you do not go through it is possible to live worthily to maintain your attitudes to hold your position to die bravely but much will blind you, much will evade you, at what cost who knows? The door itself makes no promises.
It is only a door.


by Adrienne Rich | |

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

 I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour.
I know you are reading this poem standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem in a room where too much has happened for you to bear where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed and the open valise speaks of flight but you cannot leave yet.
I know you are reading this poem as the underground train loses momentum and before running up the stairs toward a new kind of love your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out, count themselves out, at too early an age.
I know you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language guessing at some words while others keep you reading and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read there where you have landed, stripped as you are.


by Adrienne Rich | |

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.
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.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Our Whole Life

 Our whole life a translation 
the permissible fibs

and now a knot of lies 
eating at itself to get undone

Words bitten thru words

~~

meanings burnt-off like paint 
under the blowtorch

All those dead letters 
rendered into the oppressor's language

Trying to tell the doctor where it hurts 
like the Algerian 
who waled form his village, burning

his whole body a could of pain 
and there are no words for this

except himself


by Adrienne Rich | |

Miracle Ice Cream

 Miracle's truck comes down the little avenue,
Scott Joplin ragtime strewn behind it like pearls,
and, yes, you can feel happy
with one piece of your heart.
Take what's still given: in a room's rich shadow a woman's breasts swinging lightly as she bends.
Early now the pearl of dusk dissolves.
Late, you sit weighing the evening news, fast-food miracles, ghostly revolutions, the rest of your heart.


by Adrienne Rich | |

In Those Years

 In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to

But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through the rags of fog
where we stood, saying I


by Adrienne Rich | |

Burning Oneself Out

 We can look into the stove tonight
as into a mirror, yes, 

the serrated log, the yellow-blue gaseous core 

the crimson-flittered grey ash, yes.
I know inside my eyelids and underneath my skin Time takes hold of us like a draft upward, drawing at the heats in the belly, in the brain You told me of setting your hand into the print of a long-dead Indian and for a moment, I knew that hand, that print, that rock, the sun producing powerful dreams A word can do this or, as tonight, the mirror of the fire of my mind, burning as if it could go on burning itself, burning down feeding on everything till there is nothing in life that has not fed that fire


by Adrienne Rich | |

For the Dead

 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


by Adrienne Rich | |

In A Classroom

 Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me.
For that I came.


by Adrienne Rich | |

My Mouth Hovers Across Your Breasts

 My mouth hovers across your breasts
in the short grey winter afternoon
in this bed we are delicate
and touch so hot with joy we amaze ourselves
tough and delicate we play rings
around each other our daytime candle burns
with its peculiar light and if the snow
begins to fall outside filling the branches
and if the night falls without announcement
there are the pleasures of winter
sudden, wild and delicate your fingers
exact my tongue exact at the same moment
stopping to laugh at a joke
my love hot on your scent on the cusp of winter


by Adrienne Rich | |

From a Survivor

 The pact that we made was the ordinary pact
of men & women in those days

I don't know who we thought we were
that our personalities
could resist the failures of the race

Lucky or unlucky, we didn't know
the race had failures of that order
and that we were going to share them

Like everybody else, we thought of ourselves as special

Your body is as vivid to me
as it ever was: even more

since my feeling for it is clearer:
I know what it could and could not do

it is no longer
the body of a god
or anything with power over my life

Next year it would have been 20 years
and you are wastefully dead
who might have made the leap
we talked, too late, of making

which I live now
not as a leap
but a succession of brief, amazing movements

each one making possible the next


by Adrienne Rich | |

Moving in Winter

 Their life, collapsed like unplayed cards,
is carried piecemeal through the snow;
Headboard and footboard now, the bed
where she has lain desiring him
where overhead his sleep will build
its canopy to smother her once more;
their table, by four elbows worn
evening after evening while the wax runs down;
mirrors grey with reflecting them,
bureaus coffining from the cold
things that can shuffle in a drawer,
carpets rolled up around those echoes
which, shaken out, take wing and breed
new altercations, the old silences.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Two Songs

 1.
Sex, as they harshly call it, I fell into this morning at ten o'clock, a drizzling hour of traffic and wet newspapers.
I thought of him who yesterday clearly didn't turn me to a hot field ready for plowing, and longing for that young man pierced me to the roots bathing every vein, etc.
All day he appears to me touchingly desirable, a prize one could wreck one's peace for.
I'd call it love if love didn't take so many years but lust too is a jewel a sweet flower and what pure happiness to know all our high-toned questions breed in a lively animal.
2.
That "old last act"! And yet sometimes all seems post coitum triste and I a mere bystander.
Somebody else is going off, getting shot to the moon.
Or a moon-race! Split seconds after my opposite number lands I make it-- we lie fainting together at a crater-edge heavy as mercury in our moonsuits till he speaks-- in a different language yet one I've picked up through cultural exchanges.
.
.
we murmur the first moonwords: Spasibo.
Thanks.
O.
K.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Orion

 Far back when I went zig-zagging
through tamarack pastures
you were my genius, you
my cast-iron Viking, my helmed
lion-heart king in prison.
Years later now you're young my fierce half-brother, staring down from that simplified west your breast open, your belt dragged down by an oldfashioned thing, a sword the last bravado you won't give over though it weighs you down as you stride and the stars in it are dim and maybe have stopped burning.
But you burn, and I know it; as I throw back my head to take you in and old transfusion happens again: divine astronomy is nothing to it.
Indoors I bruise and blunder break faith, leave ill enough alone, a dead child born in the dark.
Night cracks up over the chimney, pieces of time, frozen geodes come showering down in the grate.
A man reaches behind my eyes and finds them empty a woman's head turns away from my head in the mirror children are dying my death and eating crumbs of my life.
Pity is not your forte.
Calmly you ache up there pinned aloft in your crow's nest, my speechless pirate! You take it all for granted and when I look you back it's with a starlike eye shooting its cold and egotistical spear where it can do least damage.
Breath deep! No hurt, no pardon out here in the cold with you you with your back to the wall.


by Adrienne Rich | |

For the Record

 The clouds and the stars didn't wage this war
the brooks gave no information
if the mountain spewed stones of fire into the river
it was not taking sides
the raindrop faintly swaying under the leaf
had no political opinions

and if here or there a house
filled with backed-up raw sewage
or poisoned those who lived there
with slow fumes, over years
the houses were not at war
nor did the tinned-up buildings

intend to refuse shelter
to homeless old women and roaming children
they had no policy to keep them roaming
or dying, no, the cities were not the problem
the bridges were non-partisan
the freeways burned, but not with hatred

Even the miles of barbed-wire
stretched around crouching temporary huts
designed to keep the unwanted
at a safe distance, out of sight
even the boards that had to absorb
year upon year, so many human sounds

so many depths of vomit, tears
slow-soaking blood
had not offered themselves for this
The trees didn't volunteer to be cut into boards
nor the thorns for tearing flesh
Look around at all of it

and ask whose signature 
is stamped on the orders, traced
in the corner of the building plans
Ask where the illiterate, big-bellied
women were, the drunks and crazies,
the ones you fear most of all: ask where you were.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Planetarium

 Thinking of Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), 
astronomer, sister of William; and others.
A woman in the shape of a monster a monster in the shape of a woman the skies are full of them a woman 'in the snow among the Clocks and instruments or measuring the ground with poles' in her 98 years to discover 8 comets She whom the moon ruled like us levitating into the night sky riding the polished lenses Galaxies of women, there doing penance for impetuousness ribs chilled in those spaces of the mind An eye, 'virile, precise and absolutely certain' from the mad webs of Uranusborg encountering the NOVA every impulse of light exploding from the core as life flies out of us Tycho whispering at last 'Let me not seem to have lived in vain' What we see, we see and seeing is changing the light that shrivels a mountain and leaves a man alive Heartbeat of the pulsar heart sweating through my body The radio impulse pouring in from Taurus I am bombarded yet I stand I have been standing all my life in the direct path of a battery of signals the most accurately transmitted most untranslatable language in the universe I am a galactic cloud so deep so invo- luted that a light wave could take 15 years to travel through me And has taken I am an instrument in the shape of a woman trying to translate pulsations into images for the relief of the body and the reconstruction of the mind.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Rural Reflections

 This is the grass your feet are planted on.
You paint it orange or you sing it green, But you have never found A way to make the grass mean what you mean.
A cloud can be whatever you intend: Ostrich or leaning tower or staring eye.
But you have never found A cloud sufficient to express the sky.
Get out there with your splendid expertise; Raymond who cuts the meadow does not less.
Inhuman nature says: Inhuman patience is the true success.
Human impatience trips you as you run; Stand still and you must lie.
It is the grass that cuts the mower down; It is the cloud that swallows up the sky.


by Adrienne Rich | |

Shattered Head

 A life hauls itself uphill
through hoar-mist steaming
the sun's tongue licking
leaf upon leaf into stricken liquid
When? When? cry the soothseekers
but time is a bloodshot eye
seeing its last of beauty its own
foreclosure
a bloodshot mind
finding itself unspeakable
What is the last thought?
Now I will let you know?
or, Now I know?
(porridge of skull-splinters, brain tissue
mouth and throat membrane, cranial fluid) 

Shattered head on the breast
of a wooded hill
Laid down there endlessly so
tendrils soaked into matted compose
became a root
torqued over the faint springhead
groin whence illegible
matter leaches: worm-borings, spurts of silt
volumes of sporic changes
hair long blown into far follicles
blasted into a chosen place 

Revenge on the head (genitals, breast, untouched)
revenge on the mouth
packed with its inarticulate confessions
revenge on the eyes
green-gray and restless
revenge on the big and searching lips
the tender tongue
revenge on the sensual, on the nose the
carrier of history
revenge on the life devoured
in another incineration

You can walk by such a place, the earth is 
made of them
where the stretched tissue of a field or woods 
is humid
with beloved matter
the soothseekers have withdrawn
you feel no ghost, only a sporic chorus
when that place utters its worn sigh
let us have peace

And the shattered head answers back

And I believed I was loved, I believed I loved
Who did this to us?


by Adrienne Rich | |

November 1968

 Stripped
you're beginning to float free
up through the smoke of brushfires
and incinerators
the unleafed branches won't hold you
nor the radar aerials

You're what the autumn knew would happen
after the last collapse
of primary color
once the last absolutes were torn to pieces
you could begin

How you broke open, what sheathed you
until this moment
I know nothing about it
my ignorance of you amazes me
now that I watch you
starting to give yourself away
to the wind


by Adrienne Rich | |

Implosions

 The world's
not wanton
only wild and wavering

I wanted to choose words that even you
would have to be changed by

Take the word
of my pulse, loving and ordinary
Send out your signals, hoist
your dark scribbled flags
but take
my hand

All wars are useless to the dead

My hands are knotted in the rope
and I cannot sound the bell

My hands are frozen to the switch
and I cannot throw it

The foot is in the wheel

When it's finished and we're lying
in a stubble of blistered flowers
eyes gaping, mouths staring
dusted with crushed arterial blues

I'll have done nothing
even for you?


by Adrienne Rich | |

Final Notions

 It will not be simple, it will not take long
It will take little time, it will take all your thought
It will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
It will be short, it will not be simple 

It will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
It will not take long, it will occupy all your thought
As a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
It will take your flesh, it will not be simple 

You are coming into us who cannot withstand you
You are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
You are taking parts of us into places never planned
You are going far away with pieces of our lives


It will be short, it will take all your breath
It will not be simple, it will become your will