in memory of adrienne rich: splittings.
I’ve always loved this poem, but I didn’t understand it until I was older. Adrienne, I hope one day I write something as beautifully as you wrote this.
1. 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 or the miles It is not separation calls me forth but I who am separation And remember I have no existence apart from you
2. I believe I am choosing something now 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 the 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
3. 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.