Come again, please, come again,
Whoever you are.
Religious, infidel, heretic or pagan.
Even if you promised a hundred times
And a hundred times you broke your promise,
This door is not the door
Of hopelessness and frustration.
This door is open for everybody.
Come, come as you are.
You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language
Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she's a woman of my time
with Love, our subject:
we've trained it like ivy to our walls
baked it like bread in our ovens
worn it like lead on our ankles
watched it through binoculars as if
it were a helicopter
bringing food to our famine
or the satellite
of a hostile power
I begin to see that woman
doing things: stirring rice
ironing a skirt
typing a manuscript till dawn
trying to make a call
from a phonebooth
The phone rings endlessly
in a man's bedroom
she hears him telling someone else
Never mind. She'll get tired.
hears him telling her story to her sister
who becomes her enemy
and will in her own way
light her own way to sorrow
ignorant of the fact this way of grief
is shared, unnecessary
Adrienne Rich - December 25, 1972
Tremors of your network
cause kings to disappear.
Your open mouth in anger
makes nations bow in fear.
Your bombs can change the seasons,
obliterate the spring.
What more do you long for ?
Why are you suffering ?
You control the human lives
in Rome and Timbuktu.
Lonely nomads wandering
owe Telstar to you.
Seas shift at your bidding,
your mushrooms fill the sky.
Why are you unhappy ?
Why do your children cry ?
They kneel alone in terror
with dread in every glance.
Their rights are threatened daily
by a grim inheritance.
You dwell in whitened castles
with deep and poisoned moats
and cannot hear the curses
which fill your children's throats.
- Maya Angelou
I’m thinking of you. What else can I say?
The palm trees on the reverse
are a delusion; so is the pink sand.
What we have are the usual
fractured coke bottles and the smell
of backed-up drains, too sweet,
like a mango on the verge
of rot, which we have also.
The air clear sweat, mosquitos
& their tracks; birds, blue & elusive.
Time comes in waves here, a sickness, one
day after the other rolling on;
I move up, its called
awake, then down into the uneasy
nights but never
forward. The roosters crow
for hours before dawn, and a prodded
child howls & howls
on the pocked road to school.
In the hold with the baggage
there are two prisoners,
their heads shaved by bayonets, & ten crates
of queasy chicks. Each spring
there’s a race of cripples, from the store
to the church. This is the sort of junk
I carry with me; and a clipping
about democracy from the local paper.
Outside the window
they’re building the damn hotel,
nail by nail, someone’s
crumbling dream. A universe that includes you
can’t be all bad, but
does it? At this distance
you’re a mirage, a glossy image
fixed in the posture
of the last time i saw you.
Turn you over, there’s the place
for the address. Wish you were
here. Love comes
in waves like the ocean, a sickness which goes on
& on, a hollow cave
in the head, filling and pounding, a kicked ear.
- Margaret Atwood
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Had we nothing to prove
we might have leaned all night at that window,
merely beside each other,
watching Peel Street, wrought-iron gates
and weather vanes, black lace of trees
between cautious Victorian silhouettes;
but there were obligations, the formalities
of passion; so we sealed the shutters
and were expedient in the brevity of night;
reading with empty sockets moonlight in dull hair,
softness to chafed thighs;
both of us anxious and shaking the night,
with all my arm, she with fingers and gentle;
no hope for silver leaves in the morning.
And always a glance for the brightening windows,
a suspension of breath for the hearing of birds
and incantations to the sun
which stirs in dust behind stone horizons.
- Leonard Cohen
When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who proved worthy of this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
and listen with deep emotion, but not
with the whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen—your final delectation—to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.
- CP Cavafy
We don’t know how to say goodbye.
We wander all over, shoulder to shoulder.
It is already starting to get dark,
You’re thoughtful, and I remain quiet.
Let’s go inside a church, and watch
A baptism, a wedding, a funeral.
Why can’t we live like that?
Let’s leave, not looking at each other.
Or, let us sit in the cemetery,
Quiet in the trampled snow.
And watch you trace with a stick,
Places where we will always be together.
- Anna Akhmatova
You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I’m lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns’ first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
- Adrienne Rich
I broke your heart.
Now barefoot I tread
Why is the word yes so brief?
It should be
so that you could not decide in an instant to say it,
so that upon reflection you could stop
in the middle of saying it.
—Sing me The Song of Songs.
—Don’t know the words.
—Then sing the notes.
—Don’t know the notes.
—Then simply hum.
—Forgot the tune.
—Then press my ear
to your ear
and sing what you hear.
And with knees like that
You won't live long
“Beauty is often spoken of as though it only stirs lust or admiration, but the most beautiful people are so in a way that makes them look like destiny or fate or meaning, the heroes of a remarkable story.”
― Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost