Submit Your Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

CreationEarth Nature Photos

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:

Famous poems below this ad
Written by Adrienne Rich |

November 1968

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

Written 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.

Written by Adrienne Rich |


 Something spreading underground won't speak to us
under skin won't declare itself
not all life-forms want dialogue with the
machine-gods in their drama hogging down
the deep bush clear-cutting refugees
from ancient or transient villages into
our opportunistic fervor to search
 crazily for a host a lifeboat

Suddenly instead of art we're eyeing
organisms traced and stained on cathedral transparencies
cruel blues embroidered purples succinct yellows
a beautiful tumor


I guess you're not alone I fear you're alone
There's, of course, poetry:
awful bridge rising over naked air: I first
took it as just a continuation of the road: 
"a masterpiece of engineering
praised, etc.
" then on the radio: "incline too steep for ease of, etc.
" Drove it nonetheless because I had to this being how— So this is how I find you: alive and more • As if (how many conditionals must we suffer?) I'm driving to your side —an intimate collusion— packed in the trunk my bag of foils for fencing with pain glasses of varying spectrum for sun or fog or sun-struck rain or bitterest night my sack of hidden poetries, old glue shredding from their spines my time exposure of the Leonids over Joshua Tree As if we're going to win this O because • If you have a sister I am not she nor your mother nor you my daughter nor are we lovers or any kind of couple except in the intensive care of poetry and death's master plan architecture-in-progress draft elevations of a black-and-white mosaic dome the master left on your doorstep with a white card in black calligraphy: Make what you will of this As if leaving purple roses • If (how many conditionals must we suffer?) I tell you a letter from the master is lying on my own doorstep glued there with leaves and rain and I haven't bent to it yet if I tell you I surmise he writes differently to me: Do as you will, you have had your life many have not signing it in his olden script: Meister aus Deutschland • In coldest Europe end of that war frozen domes iron railings frozen stoves lit in the streets memory banks of cold the Nike of Samothrace on a staircase wings in blazing backdraft said to me : : to everyone she met Displaced, amputated never discount me Victory indented in disaster striding at the head of stairs for Tory Dent

More great poems below...

Written 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.

Written by Adrienne Rich |

Diving into the Wreck

 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.

Written 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
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?

Written by Adrienne Rich |


 the quality of being complete; unbroken condition; entirety
~ Webster
A wild patience has taken me this far

as if I had to bring to shore
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor
old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books
tossed in the prow
some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades.
Splashing the oarlocks.
Burning through.
Your fore-arms can get scalded, licked with pain in a sun blotted like unspoken anger behind a casual mist.
The length of daylight this far north, in this forty-ninth year of my life is critical.
The light is critical: of me, of this long-dreamed, involuntary landing on the arm of an inland sea.
The glitter of the shoal depleting into shadow I recognize: the stand of pines violet-black really, green in the old postcard but really I have nothing but myself to go by; nothing stands in the realm of pure necessity except what my hands can hold.
Nothing but myself?.
My selves.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known I steer the boat in, simply.
The motor dying on the pebbles cicadas taking up the hum dropped in the silence.
Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius to spin and weave in the same action from her own body, anywhere -- even from a broken web.
The cabin in the stand of pines is still for sale.
I know this.
Know the print of the last foot, the hand that slammed and locked the door, then stopped to wreathe the rain-smashed clematis back on the trellis for no one's sake except its own.
I know the chart nailed to the wallboards the icy kettle squatting on the burner.
The hands that hammered in those nails emptied that kettle one last time are these two hands and they have caught the baby leaping from between trembling legs and they have worked the vacuum aspirator and stroked the sweated temples and steered the boat there through this hot misblotted sunlight, critical light imperceptibly scalding the skin these hands will also salve.

Written 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.

Written 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

Written by Adrienne Rich |


 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.

Written 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.

Written 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.

Written by Adrienne Rich |

Two Songs

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.
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.

Written 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

Written 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