Monday, January 10, 2011

"What Kinds of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich, one of the courage teachers.

What Kind of Times Are These

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

“What Kind of Times Are These”. © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the author and W.W. Norton, Inc.

Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995 (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1995)


Maureen said...

One of my favorite poets, and her words are just right!

Philip Metres said...

Thanks, Maureen. Adrienne Rich is a gem!

Lyle Daggett said...

I first read Adrienne Rich in 1974, her book Diving into the Wreck (her most recent at the time), for a class called "Male and Female Images in Contemporary Poetry" at the U. of Minnesota Experimental College. (An earlier and separate entity from the Experimental College that exists on or around the campus the past two or three years.)

I've had great pleasure reading her poems over the years, discovering her earlier books one by one, and then reading the more recent ones as they've come out every few years.

I've heard her read twice, once many years ago at Macalester College in St. Paul, and then again later, on September 12, 2001.

The 2001 reading was at the U. of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. She had been in Kansas City when the World Trade Center was destroyed on the 11th and all flights were grounded, and suddenly "everything was different" as every CNN announcer insisted on repeating at every opportunity.

She hired a driver and they drove for 13 hours, from Kansas City to Minneapolis, so she could do the reading here on the 12th. It was a large auditorium, a newer building (designed partly for music performance) with good acoustics, and pretty fully packed with people. The campus had mostly shut down for the day in the aftermath of the day before, but the reading went on as scheduled.

It was one of the supremely great poetry readings I've been to in my life. I can't think of a better place to have been that day.

Philip Metres said...

Lyle, she would have been the sort of voice I'd want to hear just after 9/11. And just about any other day, for that matter.