When I was an undergrad, I spent many a night reading everything I could get my hands on.
I was lucky enough to work in a library, so when it was quiet, I would “stock the shelves,” which really meant sitting down on the floors, in the aisles where no one could see me, and doing something dirty and obscene.
I would read poems.
Poems are for flakes. Poems are for pretentious nerds. Poems are for 16-year-old kids who wear too much makeup (of any gender). Perhaps. But so what.
It was on the floor of that library that I started to read Adrienne Rich.
Here was a woman who spoke her mind in the best way she knew how. With spaces and similes, metaphors and anecdotes. This was not a world of flourishes and daydreams; it was of every day.
Here is one of her love poems.
I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone…
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
Adrienne Rich passed away at the age of 82. Thank you, Adrienne, for everything that you did and wrote.