REFLECTION: 3 Years Since the Death of Adrienne Rich ...

I found this post I wrote for Velvet Park 3 years ago. I was devastated by the passing of Adrienne Rich.

adrienne rich

There’s a place, where I write, inside of my newly-renovated, recently hardwood-floored row-house—a staple in the central piece of gentrification that I occupy—where several arms reaches away, beside where our neighborhood drug dealer sells a host of narcotics to the white frat boys living next door to the “colored multiple shades of rotting brown” dope fiends—here, a small, brown, girl-child plays. 

What kinds of times are these?

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.

—Adrienne Rich, “Diving into the Wreck”

She’s most likely standing, perhaps squatting, amidst trash and toys. Perhaps she’s wearing a hoodie. She’s screaming. At the top of her lungs. She has not been struck. She has not lost a thing. She is using her voice to pierce air and breech the walled barrier between us for pure, plain, preferred pleasure. Mostly hers. But also mine.

I listen. I think, “I would like to scream.”

Silence can be a plan

rigorously executed

the blueprint of a life

It is a presence

it has a history a form

Do not confuse it

with any kind of absence …

—Adrienne Rich, “Cartographies of Silence”

I’ve sat in this place, sometimes writing, sometimes pretending to write. I’ve sat here in the midst of broken dreams and promises upcycled into smart capitalist ventures and I’ve thought. I think. I’ve never screamed for pleasure - at least no pleasure of my own.

Today, I listen, I think. I would like to scream.

Today, Adrienne Rich died. Those words, impoverished, their actual meaning weighing much more heavy than one might care to imagine, hurt me.

Today, according to the LA Times, “Adrienne Rich, a pioneering feminist poet and essayist who challenged what she considered to be the myths of the American dream, has died. She was 82.”

Today Adrienne Rich, at 82, is dead.

Today, on March 27, 2012, it can be agreed that Adrienne Rich will undoubtedly never, on this earth, in human body, write another poem, speak another word, breath another small breath in the presence of frat boys, nor dope fiends, nor you, nor I, nor small, brown, girl, children screaming for pleasure.

Today, Adrienne Rich died.

And it matters not where you sit or have sat. Nor where I was sitting. Nor who was outside. Nor whether, when it happened, they were screaming for pleasure or pain.

“…so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen …”

I tell you because in times like these, when all forms of media are in an uproar over everything to do with nothing, I mourn out loud and, what seems to be, alone for a woman whose thoughts, words, and basic way of being challenged and changed my life.

I tell you because in times like these, to have you read this at all, it is necessary to discuss the mega millions jackpot or black children’s varied forms of active wear, and I am not a gambler. I only want to say “Today, Adrienne Rich died.”

Today, Adrienne Rich died.

Today, Adrienne Rich died.

Today, Adrienne Rich died.

Adrienne Rich died today.

Adrienne Rich is dead.

What kinds of times are these?

I listen. I think. I would like to scream.


What Kind of Times Are These


There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill

and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows

near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted

who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled

this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,

our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,

its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods

meeting the unmarked strip of light—

ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:

I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you

anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these

to have you listen at all, it's necessary

to talk about trees.