For This

For This

If I've reached for your lines (I have)
like letters from the dead that stir the nerves
dowsed you for a springhead
to water my thirst
dug into my compost skeletons and petals
you surely meant to catch the light:

-at work in my wormeaten wormwood-raftered
stateless underground
have I a plea?

If I've touched your finger
with a ravenous tongue
licked from your palm a rift of salt
if I've dreamt or thought you
a pack of blood fresh-drawn
hanging darkred from a hook
higher than my heart
(you who understand transfusion)
where else should I appeal?

A pilot light lies low
while the gas jets sleep
(a cat getting toed from stove
into nocturnal ice)
language uncommon and agile as truth
melts down the most intractable silence

A lighthouse keeper's ethics:
you tend for all or none
for this you might set your furniture on fire
A this we have blundered over
as if the lamp could be shut off at will
rescue denied for some

and still a lighthouse be

1999


from Fox (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001), copyright © Adrienne Rich 2001, used by permission of the author