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For Jenn Mattern, at Breed ’em and Weep

January 30, 2010

I don’t want to presume. I don’t even know you, but from what you’ve been writing, it seems as if this poem might help.



My body opens over San Francisco like the day-
light raining down      each pore crying the change of light
I am not with her       I have been waking off and on
all night to that pain      not simply absence but
the presence of the past      destructive
to living here and now      Yet if I could instruct
myself, if we could learn to learn from pain
even as it grasps us      if the mind, the mind that lives
in this body could refuse      to let itself be crushed
in that grasp      it would loosen       Pain would have to stand
off from me and listen       its dark breath still on me
but the mind could begin to speak to pain
and pain would have to answer:

                                                    We are older now
we have met before      these are my hands before your eyes
my figure blotting out       all that is not mine
I am the pain of division       creator of divisions
it is I who blot your lover from you
and not the time-zones nor the miles
It is not separation calls me forth       but I
who am separation       And remember
I have no existence      apart from you


I believe I am choosing something new
not to suffer uselessly       yet still to feel
Does the infant memorize the body of the mother
and create her in absence?       or simply cry
primordial loneliness?       does the bed of the stream
once diverted       mourning       remember wetness?
But we, we live so much in these
configurations of the past       I choose
to separate her       from my past we have not shared
I choose not to suffer uselessly
to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me
flashing its bleak torch in my eyes       blotting out
her particular being       the details of her love
I will not be divided       from her or from myself
by myths of separation
while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me
than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning       on these hills


The world tells me I am its creature
I am raked by eyes       brushed by hands
I want to crawl into her for refuge       lay my head
in the space      between her breast and shoulder
abnegating power for love
as women have done       or hiding
from power in her love       like a man
I refuse these givens       the splitting
between love and action       I am choosing
not to suffer uselessly       and not to use her
I choose to love       this time       for once
with all my intelligence

–Adrienne Rich

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 18, 2010 11:51 am

    I was pointed to your blog by The Trephinist, and have been reading through your recent posts. Excellent writing. And Adrienne Rich’s poems definitely helped carry me through my divorce, which made me finally stop reading to comment.

  2. March 3, 2010 12:47 am

    My God, how did I miss this? Never mind — I found it now and am speechless and grateful more than I can say. WOW. xoxo

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