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Dislocations: Seven Scenarios

1.

Still learning the word
“home”    or what it could mean
                                            say, to relinquish

    a backdrop of japanese maples turning
    color of rusted wheelbarrow bottom

    where the dahlia tubers were thrown

You must go live in the city now
over the subway though not on
                                            its grating

must endure the foreign music
of the block party

finger in useless anger
the dangling cords of the windowblind


2.

In a vast dystopic space the small things
multiply

when all the pills run out the pain
grows more general

flies find the many eyes
quarrels thicken then
                                            weaken

tiny mandibles of rumor open and close
blame has a name that will not be spoken

you grasp or share a clot of food
according to your nature
                                            or your strength

love’s ferocity snarls
from under the drenched blanket’s hood


3.

City and world: this infection drinks like a drinker
whatever it can

casual salutations first
little rivulets of thought

then wanting stronger stuff
sucks at the marrow of selves

the nurse’s long knowledge of wounds
the rabbi’s scroll of ethics
the young worker’s defiance

only the solipsist seems intact
in her prewar building


4.

For recalcitrancy of attitude
the surgeon is transferred
to the V.A. hospital     where poverty
is the administrator
of necessity and her
orders don’t necessarily
get obeyed
because
the government
is paying
and the
used to be
warriors
are patients


5.

Faces in the mesh: defiance or disdain
      remember Paul Nizan?
          You thought you were innocent if you said

“I love this woman and I want to live
      in accordance with my love.”
          but you were beginning the revolution


maybe so, maybe not
      look at her now
            pale lips papery flesh

at your creased belly    wrinkled sac:
      look at the scars
            reality’s autographs

along your ribs across her haunches
look at the collarbone’s reverberant line

      how in a body can defiance
            still embrace its likeness


6.

Not to get up and go back to the drafting table
where failure crouches accusing
like the math test you bluffed and flunked
so early on
not to drag into the window’s
cruel and truthful light   your blunder
not to start over

but to turn your back, saying
all anyway is compromise
impotence and collusion
from here on I will be no part of it

is one way you could afford it


7.

Tonight someone will sleep in a stripped apartment
the last domestic traces, cup and towel
awaiting final disposal

—has ironed his shirt for travel
left an envelope for the cleaning woman
on the counter under the iron

internationalist turning toward home
three continents to cross    documents declarations
searches queues

and home no simple matter
of hearth or harbor
bleeding from internal wounds

he diagnosed    physician
without frontiers

—Adrienne Rich

 

Adrienne Rich’s The School among the Ruins: Poems 2000–2004 will be published in September.

Originally published in the summer 2004 issue of Boston Review.

 


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