Adrienne Rich


(1929 - 2012)

Died March 27, 2012






5.30 A.M.

Aunt Jennfer's Tigers


Living in Sin



Shattered Head



The Art of Translation

The Dream of A Common Language

The Jews I've felt rooted among

The Prospect

The School Among the Ruins


Trying to talk with a man

Two songs

An Unsaid Word




Pássaros e sangue....

Os Tigres da Tia Jennifer










Gli ebrei che conoscevo







Despertando nas trevas 











Modern American Poetry

The Academy of American Poets




Selected Criticism on Adrienne Rich 

Cabral, Rodrigo. Poetry and Politics in Adrienne Rich (1951-1999). Thesis UFSC. Adrienne Rich Station.

The Road Taken: Adrienne Rich in the 1990s – Poem , by Carol Bere





21 Love Poems


The Dream of A Common Language


Whenever in this city, screens flicker

with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,

victimized hirelings bending to the lash,

we also have to walk...if simply as we walk

through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties

of our own neighborhoods.

We need to grasp our lives inseparable

from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,

and the red begonia perilously flashing

from a tenement still six stories high,

or the long-legged young girls playing ball

in the junior highschool playground.

No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,

sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,

dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,

our animal passion rooted in the city.  




I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.

Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,

You've been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:

our friend the poet comes into my room

where I've been writing for days,

drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,

and I want to show her one poem

which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,

and wake. You've kissed my hair

to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,

I say, a poem I wanted to show someone...

and I laugh and fall dreaming again

of the desire to show you to everyone I love,

to move openly together

in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,

which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.


See all 21 Love poems here






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






Se estou só, queres tu saber:

Pois bem, sim, estou só,

como o avião que voa só e horizontal,

fixado no feixe de rádio,

e atravessa as Montanhas Rochosas,

visando os corredores orlados de azul

de um qualquer aeroporto no oceano.


Se estou só, queres perguntar:

Bem, é claro, só

como uma mulher que atravessa de automóvel o país,

dia após dia, deixando atrás de si,

milha após milha,

cidadezinhas onde podia ter parado

e vivido e morrido em solidão.


Se estou só,

deve ser a solidão

de ser a primeira a despertar, de respirar

o primeiro sopro frio da manhã sobre a cidade,

de ser a única acordada

numa casa envolta em sono.


Se estou só,

é com o barco a remos bloqueado na margem pelo gelo

na derradeira luz vermelha do ano,

e que sabe o que é, que sabe não ser

gelo, nem lama, nem luz de Inverno,

mas madeira, dotada para arder.


Tradução de João Ferreira Duarte, em "LEITURAS

poemas do inglês", Relógio de Água, 1993.









My three sisters are sitting

on rocks of black obsidian.

For the first time, in this light, I can see who they are.


My first sister is sewing her costume for the procession.

She is going as the Transparent lady

and all her nerves will be visible.


My second sister is also sewing,

at the seam over her heart which has never healed entirely,

At last, she hopes, this tightness in her chest will ease.


My third sister is gazing

at a dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea.

Her stockings are torn but she is beautiful.






Le mie tre sorelle stanno sedute

su rocce di nera ossidiana

In questa luce, per la prima volta, riesco a vedere chi sono.


La prima sta cucendo il costume per la processione.

Si vestirà da Dama Trasparente

tutti i nervi allo scoperto.


La seconda sta anche lei cucendo.

Quella cucitura sul cuore che non si è mai del tutto cicatrizzata.

Cederà alla fine quella tensione nel petto, lei spera.


La terza fissa lo sguardo

sulla cresta dell'onda rosso-scura, lontano.

Le sue calze sono tutte strappi ma lei è bella.












The Jews I've felt rooted among

are those who were turned to smoke


Reading of the chimneys against the blear air

I think I have seen them myself


the fog of northern Europe licking its way

along the railroad tracks


to the place where all tracks end

You told me not to look there


to become

a citizen of the world


bound by no tribe or clan

yet dying you followed the Six Day War


with desperate attention

and this summer I lie awake at dawn


sweating the Middle Eats through ,y brain

wearing the star of David


on a thin chain at me breastbone    


     Gli ebrei che conoscevo




Gli ebrei tra cui avevo radici

sono quelli tramutati in fumo


Leggendo nei camini contro la bruma

mi sembra di averli visti io stessa


la nebbia del nord Europa si fa strada

lambendo i binari della ferrovia


là dove tutti i binari finiscono

Mi dicesti di non guardare


di diventare

cittadina del mondo


sciolta da clan o da tribù

Neppure morente tu seguivi la Guerra dei Sei Giorni


con disperata attenzione

e questa estate io sveglia all'alba


trasudo il Medio Oriente dal cervello

porto la stella di Davide


ad una catenina sottile sullo sterno.





Mother-in Law



Tell me something

                              you say

        Not: What are you working on now, is there anyone special,

        how is the job

        do you mind coming back to an empty house

        what do you do on Sundays

Tell me something…

                                 Some secret

        we both know and have never spoken?

        Some sentence that could flood with light

        your life, mine?

Tell me what daughters tell their mothers

everywhere in the world, and I and only I

even have to ask…

Tell me something.

        Lately, I hear it: Tell me something true,

        daughter-in-law before we part,

        tell me something true before I die

        And time was when I tried.

You married my son, and so

strange as you are, you are my daughter

Tell me…

        I’ve been trying to tell you, mother-in-law

        that I think I’m breaking in two

        and half doesn’t even want to love

        I can polish this table to satin because I don’t care

        I am trying to tell you, I envy

        the people in mental hospitals their freedom

        and I can’t live on placebos

        or Valium, like you 

A cut lemon scours the smell of fish away

You’ll feel better when the children are in school

        I would try to tell you, mother-in-law

        but my anger takes fire from yours and in the oven

        the meal bursts into flames

Daughter-in-law, before we part

tell me something true

        I polished the table, mother-in-law

        and scrubbed the knives with half a lemon

        the way you showed me to do

        I wish I could tell you-

                                   Tell me

They think I’m weak and hold

things back from me. I agreed to years ago

Daughter-in-law, strange as you are,

tell me something true

tell me something

                                   Your son is dead

        ten years, I am a lesbian,

        my children are themselves.

        Mother-in-law, before we part

        shall we try again? Strange as I am,

        strange as you are? What do mothers

        ask their own daughters, everywhere in the world?

        Is there a question?

                                   Ask me something.






Dimmi qualcosa

Tu dici

Non: a che cosa stai lavorando ora, ti interessa qualcuno

Come va il lavoro

Ti dispiace ritornare in una casa vuota

Cosa fai la domenica

Dimmi qualcosa....

Un segreto

Che entrambe sappiamo e che mai ci siamo dette?

Una frase capace di inondare di luce

La tua vita, la mia?

Dimmi ciò che le figlie dicono alle madri

Ovunque nel mondo, e io e solo io

Sono costretta a chiedere...

Dimmi qualcosa.

Da qualche tempo mi sento dire: dimmi qualcosa di vero,

nuora cara, prima che ci separiamo,

dimmi qualcosa di vero prima che io muoia

Ci fù un tempo in cui io tentai.

Tu hai sposato mio figlio, e perciò

Per quanto strana tu sia, sei mia figlia


Ho sempre provato a dirti, suocera cara

Che penso che mi sto spezzando in due

E metà di me neanche vuole amare più.

Posso lucidare questo tavolo come raso perchè non


Sto provando a dirti, invidio la libertà

Di coloro che stanno al manicomino

Ma io non posso vivere di placebo

E valium, come te

Un limone tagliato toglie l'odore del pesce

Starai meglio quando i bambini andranno a scuola

Volevo provare a dirti, suocera cara

Ma la rabbia mi si accende con la tua e nel forno

la cena va a fuoco

Nuora cara, prima che ci separiamo

Dimmi qualcosa di vero

Ho lucidato il tavolo suocera cara

E strofinato i coltelli con mezzo limone

Nel modo in cui mi insegnasti

Vorrei potertelo dire

Dimmi !

Credono che io sia debole e mi

Nascondono le cose. Ho accettato questo anni fa.

Nuora cara, per quanto strana tu sia

Dimmi qualcosa di vero

Dimmi qualcosa

Tuo figlio è morto

Dieci anni fa, io sono lesbica,

i miei figli sono se stessi.

Suocera cara, prima di separaci

Tenteremo ancora? Per quanto strana io sia,

per quanto strana tu sia ? Che cosa chiedono le madri

alle figlie, ovunque nel mondo ?

C'è una domanda ? Chiedimi qualcosa.








Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.







Sex, as they harshly call it,
I fell into this morning
at ten o'clock, a drizzling hour
of traffic and wet newspapers.
I thought of him who yesterday
clearly didn't
turn me to a hot field
ready for plowing, 
and longing for that young man
pierced me to the roots
bathing every vein, etc.
All day he appears to me
touchingly desirable,
a prize one could wreck one's peace for.
I'd call it love if love
didn't take so many years
but lust too is a jewel
a sweet flower and what
pure happiness to know
all our high-toned questions
breed in a lively animal.
That "old last act"!
And yet sometimes
all seems post coitum triste
and I a mere bystander.
Somebody else is going off,
getting shot to the moon.
Or a moon-race!
Split seconds after
my opposite number lands
I make it--
we lie fainting together
at a crater-edge
heavy as mercury in our moonsuits
till he speaks--
in a different language
yet one I've picked up 
through cultural exchanges...
we murmur the first moonwords:

Spasibo. Thanks. O.K.








Living in Sin


She had thought the studio would keep itself;

no dust upon the furniture of love.

Half heresy, to wish the taps less vocal,

the panes relieved of grime. A plate of pears,

a piano with a Persian shawl, a cat

stalking the picturesque amusing mouse

had risen at his urging.

Not that at five each separate star would writhe

under the milkman's tramp; that morning light

so coldly would delineate the scraps

of last night's cheese and three sepulchral bottles;

that on the kitchen shelf among the saucers

a pair of beetle-eyes would fix her own--

envoy from some village in the moldings...

Meanwhile, he, with a yawn,

sounded a dozen notes upon the keyboard,

declared it out of tune, shrugged at the mirror,

rubbed at his beard, went out for cigarettes;

while she, jeered by the minor demons,

pulled back the sheets and made the bed and found

a towel to dust the table-top,

and let the coffee-pot boil over on the stove.

By evening she was back in love again,

though not so wholly but throughout the night

she woke sometimes to feel the daylight coming

like a relentless milkman up the stairs. 







An Unsaid Word


She who has power to call her man

From that estranged intensity

Where his mind forages alone,

Yet keeps her pace and leaves him free,

And when his thoughts to her return

Stands where he left her, still his own,

Knows this the hardest thing to learn.








Trying to talk with a man


Out in this desert we are testing bombs,


that's why we came here.


Sometimes I feel an underground river

forcing its way between deformed cliffs

an acute angle of understanding

moving itself like a locus of the sun

into this condemned scenery.


What we’ve had to give up to get here –

whole LP collections, films we starred in

playing in the neighborhoods, bakery windows

full of dry, chocolate-filled  Jewish cookies,

the language of love-letters, of suicide notes,

afternoons on the riverbank

pretending to be children


Coming out to this desert

we meant to change the face of

driving among dull green succulents

walking at noon in the ghost town

surrounded by a silence


that sounds like the silence of the place

except that it came with us

and is familiar

and everything we were saying until now

was an effort to blot it out –

coming out here we are up against it



Out here I feel more helpless

with you than without you

You mention the danger

and list the equipment

we talk of people caring for each other

in emergencies - laceration, thirst -

but you look at me like an emergency


Your dry heat feels like power

your eyes are stars of a different magnitude

they reflect lights that spell out: EXIT

when you get up and pace the floor


talking of the danger

as if it were not ourselves

as if we were testing anything else.











       5.30 A.M.


Birds and periodic blood.

Old recapitulations.

The fox, panting, fire-eyed,

gone to earth in my chest.

How beautiful we are,

she and I, with our auburn

pelts, our trails of blood,

our miracle escapes,

our whiplash panic flogging us on

the new miracles!

They’ve supplied us with pills

for bleeding, pills for panic.

Wash them down the sink.

This is truth, then:

dull needle groping in the spinal fluid,

weak acid in the bottom of the cup,

foreboding, foreboding.

No one tells the truth about truth,

that it’s what the fox

sees from her scuffled burrow:

dull-jawed, onrushing


being that

inanely single-minded

will have our skins at last.






Pássaros e sangue periódico.
Antigas recapitulações.
A raposa, arfando, de olhos em brasa,
enterrada no meu peito.
Somos tão belas,
ela e eu, com os nossos pêlos
fulvos, os nossos rastos sanguíneos,
as nossas fugas milagrosas,
o nosso pânico vergastado acossando-nos
para novos milagres!
Eles aprovisionaram-nos de pílulas
para o fluxo do sangue, pílulas para o pânico.
Há que afogá-las na pia.
Isto é, pois, a verdade:
a agulha embotada tacteando o fluido vertebral,
ácido fraco no fundo do cálice,
mau pressago, mau pressago.
Ninguém diz a verdade sobre a verdade,
que é aquilo que a raposa
vê da sua toca esgaravatada:
de dentes embotados, homicida
em posição de ataque, estúpida
criatura de ideias fixas que
no fim nos há-de esfolar.

(in Leaflets, 1969)







Aunt Jennifer's Tigers


Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,
Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.


Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool
Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.


When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
The tigers in the panel that she made
Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.








Os tigres da tia Jennifer cruzam uma trama,
Cidadãos de fulvo quartzo num verde panorama.
Nada receiam dos homens ocultos na folhagem;
Desfilam com dignidade, galhardia e coragem.

As mãos da tia Jennifer manobram com desvelo
A agulha de marfim que a custo puxa o novelo.
No anel da Tia Jennifer o peso do meu Tio
Submete e verga o dedo que outrora cingiu.

Essas mãos amedrontadas, quando ela morrer,
Ficarão ‘inda algemadas ao que aceitou sofrer.
E na trama aqueles tigres por suas mãos cerzidos
Hão-de ficar desfilando, altivos e destemidos.

(in A Change of World, 1951)









For years I struggled with you: your categories, your theories, your will, the cruelty which came inextricable from your love. For years all arguments I carried on in my head were with you. I saw myself, the eldest daughter raised as a son, taught to study but not to pray, taught to hold reading and writing sacred: the eldest daughter in a house with no son, she who must overthrow the father, take what he taught her and use it against him. All this in a castle of air, the floating world of the assimilated who know and deny they will always be aliens.


After your death I met you again as the face of patriarchy, could name at last precisely the principle you embodied, there was an ideology at last which let me dispose of you, identify the suffering you caused, hate you righteously as part of a system, the kingdom of the fathers. I saw the power and arrogance of the male as your true watermark; I did not see beneath it the suffering of the Jew, the alien stamp you bore, because you had deliberately arranged that it should be invisible to me. It is only, under a powerful, womanly lens, that I can decipher your suffering and deny no part of my own.





Durante anos porfiei contigo: as tuas categorias, as tuas teorias, a tua vontade, a crueldade que derivava inextrincavelmente do teu amor. Durante anos, todas as discussões que alimentei em pensamento foram contigo. Via-me, a filha mais velha criada como um filho, ensinada a estudar mas não a rezar, ensinada a prezar a leitura e a escrita como coisas sagradas: a filha mais velha numa casa sem filhos, a que tinha de derrubar o pai, pegar no que ele lhe ensinara, usá-lo contra ele. Tudo isto num castelo no ar, o mundo flutuante dos assimilados que sabem e negam que hão-de ser sempre estrangeiros.


Após a tua morte, tornei a encontrar-te no rosto da patriarquia, podia por fim classificar rigorosamente o princípio que encarnavas, havia por fim uma ideologia que me permitia arrumar-te, identificar o sofrimento que provocaste, odiar-te por justa causa como parte de um sistema, o reinado dos pais. Vi o poder e arrogância do macho como a tua genuína imagem de marca; não vi por baixo dela o sofrimento do judeu, a insígnia estrangeira que usavas, já que deliberadamente quiseste que fosse invisível para mim. Só agora, sob uma lente tremenda, de mulher, consigo decifrar o teu sofrimento e não negar qualquer parte do meu.

(Sétimo poema da sequência «Sources» in “Your Native Land, Your Life: Poems”, 1986)









My three sisters are sitting

on rocks of black obsidian.

For the first time, in this light, I can see who they are.


My first sister is sewing her costume for the procession.

She is going as the Transparent lady

and all her nerves will be visible.


My second sister is also sewing,

at the seam over her heart which has never healed entirely,

At last, she hopes, this tightness in her chest will ease.


My third sister is gazing

at a dark-red crust spreading westward far out on the sea.

Her stockings are torn but she is beautiful.





As minhas três irmãs estão sentadas
sobre rochas de obsidiana preta.
Pela primeira vez, a esta luz, consigo ver quem são.

A minha primeira irmã está a coser o fato para a procissão.
Vai vestida de Senhora Transparente
e todos os seus nervos estarão à vista.

A minha segunda irmã também está a coser
sobre a ferida do peito, que nunca cicatrizou completamente.
Espera, enfim, aliviar este aperto no coração.

A minha terceira irmã está a contemplar

uma crosta vermelho-escura que a ocidente se estende ao longe

[sobre o mar.

Tem as meias rotas mas é formosa.

(in Leaflets, 1969)







The thing that arrests me is

      how we are composed of molecules

      (he showed me the figure in the paving stones)

      arranged without our knowledge and consent

                like the wirephoto composed

                of millions of dots


                in which the man from Bangladesh

                walks starving

                                     on the front page

                                     knowing nothing about it

                which is his presence for the world




We are standing in line outside of something

two by two, or alone in pairs, or simply alone

looking into windows full of scissors,

windows full of shoes. The street was closing,

the city was closing, would we be the lucky ones

to make it? They were showing

in a glass case, the Man Without a Country.

We held up our passports in his face, we wept for him.



They are dumping animal blood into the sea

to bring up the sharks. Sometimes every

aperture of my body

leaks blood. I don’t know whether

to pretend that this is natural.

Is there a law about this, a law of nature?

You worship the blood

you call it hysterical bleeding

you want to drink it like milk

you dip your finger into it and you write

you faint at the smell of it

you dream of dumping me into the sea.







The tragedy of sex

lies around us, a woodlot

the axes are sharpened for.

The old shelters and huts

stare through the clearing with a certain resolution

- the hermit’s cabin, the hunters’ shack –

scenes of masturbation

and dirty jokes.

A man’s world. But finished.

They themselves have sold it to the machines.

I walk the unconcious forest,

A woman dressed in old army fatigues

that have shrunk to fit her, I am lost

at moments, I feel dazed

by the sun pawing between the trees,

cold in the bog and lichen of the ticket.

Nothing will save this. I am alone,

kicking the last totting logs

with their strange smell of life, not death,

wondering what on earth it all might have become.








blinding and purging


spears of sun striking the water


the bodies riding the air


like gliders


the bodies in slow motion



into the pool

at the Berlin Olympics


control; loss of control


the bodies rising

arching back to the tower

time reeling backward


clarity of open air

before the dark chambers

with the shower-heads


the bodies falling again



                              faster than light

the water opening

like air

like realization


A woman made this film



the law

of gravity







All night dreaming of a body

space weighs on differently from mine

We are making love in the street

the traffic flows off from us

pouring back like a sheet

the asphalt stirs with tenderness

there is no dismay

we move together like underwater plants


Over and over, starting to wake
I dive back to discover you
still whispering, touch me, we go on
streaming through the slow
citylight forest ocean
stirring our body hair


But this is the saying of a dream
on waking
I wish there were somewhere
actual we could stand
handing the power-glasses back and forth
looking at the earth, the wildwood
where the split began.






Aquilo que me intriga é
sermos nós compostos por moléculas
(ele mostrou-me a figura na calçada)
arranjadas sem que o saibamos ou consintamos
como a foto do telex composta
por milhões de pontos

em que o homem de Bangladesh
passeia esfomeado
na primeira página
sem saber nada disso
que é a sua presença para o mundo.

Estamos de pé na bicha à porta de alguma coisa
dois a dois, ou sozinhos em pares, ou simplesmente sozinhos,
a olhar para janelas cheias de tesouras,
janelas cheias de sapatos. A rua estava a fechar,
a cidade estava a fechar, seríamos nós os que teriam a sorte
de conseguir? Exibiam
numa redoma de vidro, o Homem sem País
Nós atirámos-lhe à cara os passaportes, chorámos por ele.

Estão a despejar sangue de animais no mar
para que os tubarões venham ao de cima. Às vezes
cada orifício do meu corpo
pinga sangue. Não sei se hei-de
fingir que é uma coisa natural.
Haverá uma lei sobre isto, uma lei da natureza?
Vós adorais o sangue
vós chamais-lhe sangria histérica
vós quereis bebê-lo como leite
vós embebeis nele os dedos e escreveis
vós desmaiais ao seu cheiro
vós sonhais em despejar-me no mar.

(1) Referência ao conto "Man Without a Country" (1863) de Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909).

A tragédia do sexo
jaz à nossa volta, um molhe de lenha
para que os machados foram amolados.
Os velhos abrigos e tendas
olham fixamente pelo espaço devastado com alguma resolução
– o tugúrio do eremita, a cabana dos caçadores –
cenas de masturbação
e piadas obscenas.
Um mundo do homem. Mas acabou.
Eles próprios o venderam às máquinas.
Eu percorro essa inconsciente floresta,
uma mulher vestida com velhos desperdícios do exército
que encolheram para lhe servirem, perco-me
por momentos, entontece-me
o sol esgaravatando entre as árvores,
frio no brejo e líquen da mata.
Isto não tem salvação possível. Estou só,
pontapeando os últimos troncos que apodrecem
com o seu estranho cheiro a vida, não morte,
perguntando-me em que raio se teria tudo transformado.



um jacto

cegante e purgante

flechas de sol fustigando a água

os corpos montando o ar

tais planadores

os corpos em câmara lenta

na piscina
das Olimpíadas de Berlim (2)

controlo; perda de controlo

os corpos erguendo-se
arqueando-se de costas para a torre
o tempo rebobinando

claridade de ar livre
antes dos quartos escuros
com chuveiros

os corpos caindo de novo

mais rápidos que a luz
a água abrindo-se
tal ar
tal realização

Uma mulher fez este filme

a lei
da gravidade

(2) Alusão à sequência de mergulhos do documentário Olimpíadas, de Leni Reifenstahl sobre os Jogos Olímpicos de 1936.

Toda a noite sonhando com um corpo
que o espaço verga de outro modo que o meu
Fazemos amor na rua
o trânsito corre para longe de nós
arrepiando como um lençol
o asfalto agita-se com ternura
não há qualquer apreensão
movemo-nos em conjunto como plantas subaquáticas

Uma e outra vez, começando a despertar
Mergulho de costas para te descobrir
sussurrando ainda, toca-me, continuamos
fluindo através desse lento
oceano da floresta de luzes da cidade
agitando a capilosidade do corpo.

Mas isto é o que se diz em sonhos
gostaria que houvesse um espaço
real em que nos pudéssemos situar
passando-nos os binóculos
olhando para a terra, a lenha
onde começou a racha.

(in Diving Into the Wreck, 1973)







I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains' enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

From An Atlas of the Difficult World XIII






Eu sei que lês este poema
já tarde, antes de saíres do escritório
com o único foco de luz intenso, amarelo, na janela escurecida
na lassidão de um edifício esbatido no silêncio
muito para lá da hora de ponta. Eu sei que lês este poema
de pé numa livraria longe do oceano
num dia cinzento do começo da Primavera, flocos ténues levados
através dos amplos espaços das planícies em teu redor.
Eu sei que lês este poema
num quarto em que aconteceu mais do que podias suportar
em que as roupas da cama jazem em rodilhas estagnadas sobre a cama
e a mala aberta fala em fugir
mas tu não podes ainda partir. Eu sei que lês este poema
enquanto o metropolitano abranda e antes de subires as escadas a correr
em direcção a um novo tipo de amor
que a tua vida nunca permitiu.
Eu sei que lês este poema à luz
do ecrã da televisão onde imagens sem som se agitam e deslizam
enquanto aguardas o comunicado da intifada.
Eu sei que lês este poema numa sala de espera
de olhares que convergem inconvenientes, de identidade com estranhos.
Eu sei que lês este poema a uma luz fluorescente
no aborrecimento e fadiga dos jovens que são deixados de fora,
que se deixam de fora, muito cedo na vida. Eu sei
que lês este poema com a vista que te falha, as lentes
espessas ampliando estas letras para lá de todo o significado mas continuas a ler
porque até o alfabeto é precioso.
Eu sei que lês este poema patrulhando o fogão
onde aqueces leite, uma criança a chorar-te no ombro, um livro na mão
porque a vida é curta e tu tens sede.
Eu sei que lês este poema que não é na tua língua
pressupondo algumas palavras enquanto outras te prendem à leitura
e eu quero saber quais são as palavras.
Eu sei que lês este poema à escuta de qualquer coisa, enquanto o azedume e a esperança
te espartilham,
regressando uma vez mais à tarefa que não podes recusar.
Eu sei que lês este poema porque não sobra mais para ler
aí onde foste aterrar, em pêlo.

(in An Atlas of the Difficult World, 1991)

  As traduções para Português (excepto "Canção") são de Margarida Vale de Gato, que gentilmente autorizou a sua transcrição aqui.  








To have seen you exactly, once:
red hair over cold cheeks fresh from the freeway
your lingo, your daunting and dauntless
eyes. But then to lift toward home, mile upon mile
back where they'd barely heard your name
--neither as terrorist nor as genius would they detain you--

to wing it back to my country bearing
your war-flecked protocols--

that was a mission, surely: my art's pouch
crammed with your bristling juices
sweet dark drops of your spirit
that streaked the pouch, the shirt I wore
and the bench on which I leaned.



It's only a branch like any other

green with the flare of life in it

and if I hold this end, you the other

that means it's broken

broken between us, broken despite us
broken and therefore dying
broken by force, broken by lying
green, with the flare of life in it



But say we're crouching on the ground like children
over a mess of marbles, soda caps, foil, old foreign coins
--the first truly precious objects. Rusty hooks, glass.

Say I saw the earring first but you wanted it.
Then you wanted the words I'd found. I'd give you
the earring, crushed lapis if it were,

I would look long at the beach glass and the sharded self
of the lightbulb. Long I'd look into your hand
at the obsolete copper profile, the cat's-eye, the lapis.

Like a thief I would deny the words, deny they ever
existed, were spoken, or could be spoken,
like a thief I'd bury them and remember where.



The trade names follow trade
the translators stopped at passport control:
Occupation: no such designation--
Journalist, maybe spy

That the books are for personal use
only--could I swear it?
That not a word of them
is contraband--how could I prove it?




The poet reads this poem, here


























When I meet the skier she is always
walking, skis and poles shouldered, toward the mountain
free-swinging in worn boots
over the path new-sifted with fresh snow
her greying dark hair almost hidden by
a cap of many colors
her fifty-year-old, strong, impatient body
dressed for cold and speed
her eyes level with mine

And when we pass each other I look into her face
wondering what we have in common
where our minds converge
for we do not pass each other, she passes me
as I halt beside the fence tangled in snow,
she passes me as I shall never pass her
in this life

Yet I remember us together
climbing Chocorua, summer nineteen-forty-five
details of vegetation beyond the timberline
lichens, wildflowers, birds,
amazement when the trail broke out onto the granite ledge
sloped over blue lakes, green pines, giddy air
like dreams of flying

When sisters separate they haunt each other
as she, who I might once have been, haunts me
or is it I who do the haunting
halting and watching her on the path
how she appears again through lightly-blowing
crystals, how her strong knees carry her,
how unaware she is, how simple
this is for her, how without let or hindrance
she travels in her body
until the point of passing, where the skier
and the cripple must decide
to recognize each other?






The School Among the Ruins

Beirut.Baghdad.Sarajevo.Bethlehem.Kabul. Not of course here.


Teaching the first lesson and the last
--great falling light of summer will you last
longer than schooltime?

When children flow
in columns at the doors
BOYS GIRLS and the busy teachers

open or close high windows
with hooked poles drawing darkgreen shades

closets unlocked, locked
questions unasked, asked, when

love of the fresh impeccable
sharp-pencilled yes
order without cruelty

a street on earth neither heaven nor hell
busy with commerce and worship
young teachers walking to school

fresh bread and early-open foodstalls


When the offensive rocks the sky when nightglare
misconstrues day and night when lived-in

rooms from the upper city
tumble cratering lower streets

cornices of olden ornament human debris
when fear vacuums out the streets

When the whole town flinches
blood on the undersole thickening to glass

Whoever crosses hunched knees bent a contested zone
knows why she does this suicidal thing

School's now in session day and night
children sleep
in the classrooms teachers rolled close


How the good teacher loved
his school the students
the lunchroom with fresh sandwiches

lemonade and milk
the classroom glass cages
of moss and turtles
teaching responsibility

A morning breaks without bread or fresh-poured milk
parents or lesson-plans

diarrhea first question of the day
children shivering it's September
Second question: where is my mother?


One: I don't know where your mother
is Two: I don't know
why they are trying to hurt us
Three: or the latitude and longitude
of their hatred Four: I don't know if we
hate them as much I think there's more toilet paper
in the supply closet I'm going to break it open

Today this is your lesson:
write as clearly as you can
your name home street and number
down on this page
No you can't go home yet
but you aren't lost
this is our school

I'm not sure what we'll eat
we'll look for healthy roots and greens
searching for water though the pipes are broken


There's a young cat sticking
her head through window bars
she's hungry like us
but can feed on mice
her bronze erupting fur
speaks of a life already wild

her golden eyes
don't give quarter She'll teach us Let's call her
when we get milk we'll give her some


I've told you, let's try to sleep in this funny camp
All night pitiless pilotless things go shrieking
above us to somewhere

Don't let your faces turn to stone
Don't stop asking me why
Let's pay attention to our cat she needs us

Maybe tomorrow the bakers can fix their ovens


"We sang them to naps told stories made
shadow-animals with our hands

washed human debris off boots and coats
sat learning by heart the names
some were too young to write
some had forgotten how"






Published: 18 March 2014


“The Prospect

by Adrienne Rich; introduced by James Crews



When Adrienne Rich published her third collection of poems,Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Lawin 1963, the book was met with scathing criticism. Her first, A Change of World(1951), had been selected by W. H. Auden for the Yale Younger Poets Award, and The Diamond Cutters, and Other Poems (1955) had been praised for its attention to formalism and tradition. Snapshots marked a shift in subject matter for Rich as she turned more towards the autobiographical and began to examine the changing roles of women in 1950s and 60s America. In “Split at the Root: An essay on Jewish identity” (1982), Rich reflected on the harsh reviews: “I was seen as ‘bitter’ and ‘personal’; and to be personal was to be disqualified . . . . I didn’t attempt that kind of thing again for a long time”. Moving with her husband and their children to New York City led to her involvement with the anti-Vietnam, Civil Rights and feminist movements which would further electrify her work. Her marriage fell apart, and two years after beginning a lifelong relationship with the novelist Michelle Cliff, Rich published The Dream of a Common Language (1978), a collection of poems in which she openly explored her sexuality for the first time.

Rich went on to write more than twenty volumes of poetry as well as several works of nonfiction, including the feminist classics, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as experience and institution (1976) and On Lies, Secrets and Silence (1979). She attracted international attention when she turned down the National Medal of Arts: “I could not accept such an award from President Clinton or this White House because the very meaning of art as I understand it is incompatible with the cynical politics of this administration . . . . [Art] means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage”.

“The Prospect”, published a decade before Rich’s embrace of free verse, seems to suggest a threat. The poem’s speaker is anxious at first to escape her city rooms with her lover, to “be gone / When next the telephone breaks the waiting air”. It is unclear from whom or what they are running. Images of a calm new life on a mythical coast where, “seas of light / Dip past the golden rocks”, are undermined by the hyperbolic language and exacting rhymes used to describe them. The speaker finally confesses: “I sometimes dread / The promise of that honey-breeding air”. There are echoes here of the fierce realism Rich would come to espouse, seeing in constant longing a dangerous separation from the world. For, only when we are “eating the rind of fact” can we be truly engaged in each moment.

The Prospect

You promise me when certain things are done 
We’ll close these rooms above a city square, 
And stealing out by half-light, will be gone 
When next the telephone breaks the waiting air, 
Before they send to find us, we shall be 
Aboard a blunt-nosed steamer, at whose rail 
We’ll watch the loading of the last brown bale 
And feel the channel roughening the sea.


And after many sunlit days we’ll sight 
The coast you told me of. Along that shore 
Rare shells lie tumbled, and the seas of light 
Dip past the golden rocks to crash and pour 
Upon the bowl-shaped beach. In that clear bay 
We’ll scoop for pebbles till our feet and hands 
Are gilded by the wash of blending sands;
And though the boat lifts anchor, we shall stay.


You will discover in the woods beyond 
The creatures you have loved on Chinese silk:
The shell-gray fox, gazelles that at your sound 
Will lift their eyes as calm as golden milk.
The leaves and grasses feathered into plumes 
Will shadow-edge their fine calligraphy;
And in the evening you will come to me.
To tell of honey thick in silver combs.


Yet in the length of moments unendeared 
By sameness, when the cracks of morning show 
Only a replica of days we’ve marred, 
With still the same old penances to do;
In furnished rooms above a city square, 
Eating the rind of fact, I sometimes dread 
The promise of that honey-breeding air, 
Those unapportioned clusters overhead.

Adrienne Rich (1953)







The Washington Post


Robert Hass

One poem by Adrienne Rich

The Guardian


John O'Mahoney

Poet and Pioneer

The Jerusalem Post


Idra Novey

What the future holds

S F Gate


Heidi Benson

In a world of violence, inequality...

Seattle Weekly


Judy Lightfoot

At 70, Adrienne Rich has just written.....






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