Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
As it happened, I was twirling a cauliflower floret, lost in Lewis’s wardrobe of pallid trees, considering my country’s longing for homogenized milk & bags of tube socks from Walmart, which felt cancerous. What came to me like a surprise snowfall in the soft evening of a snow globe, one has to pinch salt and sprinkle in the palm, repeatedly, especially when the temperature in mother’s trailer has begun to drop. In this way, after your Constitution fades you’ve your own hourglass and no one else to blame.
However, I have finished, I think, the tale of my hell today. It was really hell; the old hell, the one whose doors were opened by the son of man.
From the same desert, in the same night, always my tired eyes awake to the silver star, always, but the Kings of life are not moved, the three magi, mind and heart and soul. When shall we go beyond the mountains and the shores, to greet the birth of new toil, of new wisdom, the flight of tyrants, of demons, the end of superstition, to adore–the first to adore!
–Christmas on the earth.
The song of the heavens, the marching of peoples! Slaves, let us not curse life.
Excerpt from “A Season in Hell” (Une saison en enfer)
People are waiting in there, thousands of people, who wrote the books. So it’s much more personal than just a book. So when you open a book, the person pops out and becomes you. You look at Charles Dickens, and you are Charles Dickens, and he is you. So you go in the library and you pull a book off the shelf, and you open it, and what are you looking for? A mirror. All of a sudden, a mirror is there and you see yourself, but your name is Charles Dickens. That’s what a library is. Or the book is Shakespeare, and so you become William Shakespeare or you become Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost or all the great poets. So you find the author who can lead you through the dark.
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
dawn’s 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.
From Diving into the Wreck: Poems 1971-1972. Adrienne Rich.