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Angry Poetry Week Continues: Powers of Recuperation by Adrienne Rich

Today’s poem was written by the iconic feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Rich’s literary works inspired countless feminist authors and activists over several decades. Rich was revered for her social commentary as well as her deeply moving personal reflections.

She lived and wrote openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, beginning in an era when homosexuality was condemned by more than just knee jerk christian conservatives. As an author and activist she fought bravely for not only the rights of women, but for all who are disadvantaged in our society.

Her list of works and awards span over 7 decades, and she is one of the most anthologized authors of the 20th century. Although her writing style may have not been the in your face, bludgeon you with a hammer type poetry that’s been featured this week, her message was always loud and clear, and succinctly relevant. I would be remiss if I didn’t honor her today by sharing with you one of her poems.

Sleep well dearest Adrienne; You are cherished by many, and you are already missed.

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Powers of Recuperation
by Adrienne Rich
 
i.
 
A woman of the citizen party—what’s that—
is writing history backward
 
her body
              the chair she sits in
to be abandoned
             repossessed
 
The old, crusading, raping, civil, great, phony, holy, world,
               second world, third world,
               cold, dirty, lost, on drugs,
 
infectious, maiming, class
war lives on
 
A done matter she might have thought
ever undone though
       plucked
 
from before her birthyear
and that hyphen coming after
 
she’s old, old, the incendiary
woman
 
endless beginner
 
whose warped wraps you shall find in graves and behind glass
        plundered
 
ii
 
Streets empty now
           citizen rises
         shrugging off
her figured shirt pulls on her dark generic garment
    sheds
identity inklings
  watch, rings, ear studs
now to pocket her flashlight
         her tiny magnet
shut down heater
            finger a sleeping cat
lock inner, outer door
     insert
key in crevice
      listen once twice
to the breath of the neighborhood
take temperature of the signs
     a bird
scuffling
               a frost settling
 
… you left that meeting around two a.m. I thought
someone should walk with you
 
Didn’t think then I needed that
 
years ravel out and now
 
who’d be protecting whom
 
 
I left the key in the old place
in case
 
iii
 
Spooky those streets of minds
shuttered against shatter
 
articulate those walls
pronouncing rage and need
 
fuck the cops
      come jesus
blow me again
 
Citizen walking catwise
close to the walls
 
heat of her lungs leaving
its trace upon the air
 
fingers her tiny magnet
which for the purpose of drawing
 
particles together will have to do
when as they say the chips are down
 
iv
 
Citizen
at riverbank
          seven bridges
Ministers-in-exile with their aides
limb to limb dreaming underneath
 
conspiring by definition
 
Bridges
      trajectories arched
in shelter   rendezvous
two banks to every river  
     two directions
to every bridge
twenty-eight chances
every built thing has its unmeant purpose
iv
Every built thing with its unmeant
meaning    
    unmet purpose
every unbuilt thing
child squatting    civil
engineer   devising
by kerosene flare   in mud
possible tunnels
carves in cornmeal mush   
    irrigation
canals by index finger
all new learning looks at first
like chaos
the tiny magnet throbs
in citizen’s pocket

vi
Bends under the arc walks bent listening for chords and codes
bat-radar-pitched or twanging
off rubber bands and wires tin can telephony
to scribble testimony by fingernail and echo
her documentary alphabet still evolving
Walks up on the bridge   
    wind-whipped      roof and trajectory
shuddering under her catpaw tread
one of seven
built things holds her suspended
between desolation
and the massive figure on unrest’s verge
1pondering the unbuilt city
cheek on hand and glowing eyes and
skirted knees apart
2007

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