In Memoriam: Adrienne Rich

Storm Warnings

The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of grey unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky.

And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.

Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.

I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
And set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.
          -Adrienne Rich


Anonymous said…
Thanks for this, wow ~ I have loved Adrienne Rich for many years - did not realize she had passed away. I came here just to check in - haven't been to your website for a year or so. Believe it or not, I have this night been listening to Coldplay's Clocks over and over. Seems to be some kind of psychic connection to this poem . . . .

Be well - Sam Gainor, Atlanta
Andrew Shields said…
I'm teaching a Rich seminar this term, and while we did not discuss this poem, I am re-reading all her work for the course, and I was struck how this poem (the first in her first book) sets up a theme of shelter and protection against the threats of the outside world. The theme develops through her first few books, but is later replaced by a renunciation of the need for shelter in favor of "life without caution ... protectless", as she puts it in "Leaflets."

But even as the emphasis shifts, images of the relationship between indoors and outdoors continue to appear (and are supplemented by the kind of above/below imagery most famously represented by "Diving into the Wreck").
It is indeed a beautiful poem. Thank you. This is also my first intimation that she has died. I'm sad about that, and glad for the rest of us that she lived to write so much and so well.
I will use my 'I Wish I'd Written This' spot at Poets United this week to honour Adrienne Rich, and can't think of a me perfect poem to use than this one.
Oops — 'more perfect'.
Jennifer Perry said…
Thank you Collin, for posting this poem. What a treasure we have lost, though thankfully Rich's work is with us as long as we are wise enough to hold, read, and feel it.

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