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


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


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1Antinous: The Diaries

2The Roofwalker

3Night-Pieces: For A Child

4"I Am in Danger - Sir - "

5Spring Thunder

6Face to Face


8In the Evening

9For a Russian Poet


11On Edges

12I Dream I'm The Death of Orpheus

13Letters: March 1969

14Diving into the Wreck


16Blue Rock



19Final Notations

20What Kind Of Times Are These

21In Those Years

22To The Days

23Miracle Ice Cream


25The Art of Translation


27Letters to a Young Poet

28For This


30Terza Rima