Poem of the Week, by Adrienne Rich

70673C9E-5CD7-42CC-9591-2302B73056D6Twice in my life I’ve started down a road and kept going, even when the road narrowed and turned into thorns, brambles, impenetrable darkness. A symbol of my refusal to accept that I had made the wrong choice in the very beginning. Years later, when I read about the theory of “sunk profits,” which describes a past investment that shouldn’t but still affects your decisions about the future, I knew it was what I had done in those situations. Kept going, because with so much invested, it felt impossible to let go, even though that something turned out to be full of pain and darkness. 

But clinging to what has always been wrong, whether a person or a system, because . . . why? it’s familiar? you’ve put so much into it? you fear the unknown? means missing out on the possibility of something different, something better, something beautiful. Deny something’s fundamentally wrong, and you deny your own power to change it.


Power, by Adrienne Rich

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
her wounds    came    from the same source as her power



For more information about Adrienne Rich, please click here.

My website.
My podcast.
My Facebook page.

"Though your life felt arduous/ new and unmapped and strange. . ."

I’m talking to you, 2012. You were a long and hard year for so many of those I love. You felt helpless and horrifying at times. And you are almost over.

I’m thinking about the smallness of human life. The smallness of my life. Of this year. The smallnesses are what I remember.

Like the sound of my sister’s laugh on the other end of the phone that night when she called me back after I left her that long message.

Like the night I was playing dirty word Bananagrams with my daughter and an old friend and they both called PEEL at the same time for the same dirty word.

There was a morning in February that I ran on a deserted beach while dolphins kept pace with me fifty feet from shore.

There was a night in May that I spent sitting on the couch with someone I adore, drinking limoncello and youtubing classic songs from our youth.

There’s the fact that I can send out a smoke signal to my other sister and she will call within an hour, saying Got your smoke signal. What’s up?

There was the day I found those beautiful, vintage, handmade boots at Experienced Goods in Brattleboro and I tried them on and couldn’t take them off even long enough to fork over the $8 at the cash register.

There was the night last summer when I danced late one night to every single song –yes, even the Hokey Pokey, thanks Stinky– from that crowd-sourced dance mix.

There was that night at the open-air restaurant by a faraway sea with my daughters, candles flickering on the wooden tables. There was that perfect Greek salad and seafood from the sea a few feet away.

And that maitre d’ who kept smiling at the three of us and sending over treats: little glasses of ouzo, stuffed grape leaves, a plate of chocolate cake.

There was a pillar at an airport, a pillar I leaned against while waiting for someone, and there was that familiar and enormous swell of love when the someone I was waiting for got off the plane.

There were nine circuits around the dog park on a 2 degree day because the dog was so happy to be out there, and how could I let him down?

There was the night I stood in line for pie at a community play in my hometown and felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see my high school friend, unglimpsed in over thirty years, and I flashed back to slow-dancing with him late one night when we were 17, and the Denny’s breakfast that followed, and I remembered thinking, that long-ago night, What a great guy he is, and there he was, and I could see right away that he was still a great guy, and we hugged each other and smiled and smiled.

There was the afternoon I sat down and wrote a thank-you note, an actual thank-you note, to my brother because he is so damn funny and he makes me laugh so hard.

There were the tiny blue and yellow Italian pottery cups that came with that bottle of limoncello.

There is the ongoing fact that even though my grandmother has been gone for so many years now, I still talk to her every day. I still feel her presence, like the electricity inside the walls of my house. Invisible, and everywhere.

There is the handleless handmade coffee mug that I have to keep circling in my hands so that my fingers don’t burn but which I use every morning anyway because there’s something about it that feels exactly right.

There was Big Fat Bacon on a Stick at the state fair with my friends Stinky and J.O.

There was the day I sat down to write a blog about my best friend and I didn’t know where to start, because she is threaded throughout my entire life, and where do you begin?

There was the gratitude –what would I do without her?– and the panic –what would I do without her?

There was that day out on a run, stopping at a bridge to look down, far down at the river below, and all those bright kayaks lined up in a row on the dark water, and I couldn’t stop looking at them, remembering my living-with-cancer-for-many-years-now friend’s comment on how she can hardly stand going to the Farmer’s Market anymore, because “the colors knock my socks off,” and I knew exactly how she felt.

There was the afternoon that my quiet student, after reading aloud his strange, unearthly and beautiful-in-an-ugly way piece of writing to the class, looked over and met my eyes while everyone else’s head was still bent, and there was me nodding so that he would feel the Yes that I was trying to send to him, and there was the relief in his eyes when he got my silent Yes.

There was the night I went to see my father pretending to be crazy King George in a community play and I watched him, in his long white ruffled shirt and his rolled-up and safety-pinned black pants and his moth-eaten velvet robe, and I was so glad that sometimes in life, you get to live long enough so that everything gets worked through, gets left behind, gets washed away, so that there’s only one thing left, and that one thing is this: love.

Yup, I’m talking to you, 2012, here on the last day of a long hard year in the still-young years of a century whose end I won’t be here to see. Those moments above are a few of the millions of moments that I remember from you.

I’m marking you, 2012, acknowledging you, so that tonight, at 12:01 a.m., the world will be new again.

And we will all have yet another chance.

What would it mean to live
in a city whose people were changing
each other’s despair into hope? –
You yourself must change it. –
what would it feel like to know your country was changing? –
You yourself must change it. –
Though your life felt arduous
new and unmapped and strange
what would it mean to stand on the first
page of the end of despair?