In Memoriam

Adrienne Rich

A man walking on the street
feels unwell             has felt unwell
all week, a little     Yet the flowers crammed
in pots on the corner:    furled anemones:
he knows they open
burgundy, violet, pink, amarillo
all the way to their velvet cores
The flowers hanging over the wall: fuchsias:
each tongued, staring         all of a fire:
the flowers       He who has
been happy oftener than sad,
carelessly happy, well        oftener than sick
one of the lucky        is thinking about death
and its music         about poetry
its translations of his life

And what good will it do you
to go home and put on the Mozart Requiem?
Read Keats?        How will culture cure you?

                                                                                Poor, unhappy
unwell culture         what can it sing or say
six weeks from now, to you?

Give me your living hand         If I could take the hour
death moved into you       undeclared, unnamed
— even if sweet, if I could take that hour
between my forceps        tear at it like a monster
wrench it out of your flesh        dissolve its shape in quicklime
and make you well again
                                                   no, not again
but still….

Adrienne Rich (1929–2012) was a distinguished American poet and essayist. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her Collected Poems: 1950-2012, published posthumously in 2016.
Originally published:
April 1, 1987


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