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Archaic
By Adrienne Rich


Cold wit leaves me cold
this time of the world Multifoliate disorders
straiten my gait Minuets don't become me
Been wanting to get out see the sights
but the exits are slick with people
going somewhere fast
every one with a shared past
and a mot juste And me so out of step
with my late-night staircase inspirations my
utopian slant

Still, I'm alive here
in this village drawn in a tightening noose
of ramps and cloverleafs
but the old directions I drew up
for you
are obsolete

Here's how
to get to me
I wrote
Don't misconstrue the distance
take along something for the road
everything might be closed
this isn't a modern place

You arrived starving at midnight
I gave you warmed-up food
poured tumblers of brandy
put on Les Barricades Myst¿rieuses
-- the only jazz in the house
We talked for hours of barricades
lesser and greater sorrows
ended up laughing in the thicksilver
birdstruck light

--------

From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World. "Personal emotions -- impatience, affection, discomfort of illness, pleasure in food or music, feeling old or angry, sorrow and exhilaration -- are not necessarily diminished by political or social context. On the contrary, the context can make the feelings mean more," writes Robert Pinsky. "That is why Adrienne Rich's poetry has enduring importance...there's a grown-up, wise charm in the comedy of the self here: 'late-night staircase inspirations' are the equivalent of staircase wit: the what-I-shoulda-said that comes to one on the stairs after leaving the party. Those inspirations, like 'my utopian slant,' are not disavowed by the wry laughter."

Pinsky feels that Rich's political passions "take on conviction from her ability to place them in a particular life, at a specific time. The poem, addressed to a particular person, describing a splendid particular moment 'in the thicksilver/birdstruck light' also suggests something more general: the poet's allegorical invitation to us readers, with directions for approaching the poet's work: 'Here's how to get to me.' It is part of the pleasure, and the point, that the directions change with time: like the poet, an alert reader adapts and takes fresh routes to the destination."

I posted several Adrienne Rich poems back in 2002-3, when I first got on LiveJournal and started posting poetry, but I seem to have neglected her once I got my favorites up there. I have a kind of ambivalence with Rich: she was extremely influential for me and lots of other poets I love, and at the same time sometimes I read particularly her prose and it's like we're on different planets despite being Jewish and female and pro-gay rights...she talks about her sons like men are from some other planet, and I understand that her marriage ended terribly and maybe was never good but I just don't get that, it makes me think of that Sharon Olds poem where she comes home from the women's poetry slam and watches her son asleep. Anyway, I must dig out some more Rich favorites from back before her definition of "compulsory heterosexuality" started encompassing pretty much every woman who chooses to live with a man.

After Daniel got back from working at Hebrew school, we spent the afternoon at Homestead Farm in Poolesville. We picked some more apples -- Homestead has more varieties, including Gala and Granny Smith -- and got some stuff in the farm store, plus we looked at the pumpkins and went to see all the animals -- Homestead has goats that climb onto elevated platforms, plus cows, pigs and a variety of fowl. On the way home we went by the Seneca Schoolhouse but it was closed, so we just looked at it from the outside.















We stopped at the library before it closed to get some books for Adam for school and some travel guides to help plan our trip west next summer, came home, watched the Terrapins beat Rutgers, had fish sticks and I put on Snow Cake, which I expected most other members of the family to ignore, but they all watched. That is really a terrific movie and I am not just speaking as an Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver fan...it's unsentimental, funny, hopeful and sad without being a big overblown tragedy. And all the acting is terrific. It's on DVD now, so everyone can see it!
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