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Best Famous Adrienne Rich Poems

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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 | |

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.


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 | |

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 | |

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 | |

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