Adrienne Rich

Necessities of Life

Piece by piece I seem
to re-enter the world:  I first began

A small, fixed dot, still see
that old myself, a dark-blue thumbtack

pushed into the scene,
a hard little head protruding

from the pointillist’s buzz and bloom.
After a time the dot

begins to ooze.  Certain heats
melt it.
	Now I was hurriedly

blurring into ranges
of burnt red, burning green,

whole biographies swam up and
swallowed me like Jonah.

Jonah!  I was Wittgenstein,
Mary Wollstonecraft, the soul

of Louis Jouvet, dead
in a blown-up photograph.

Till, wolfed almost to shreds, 
I learned to make myself

unappetizing.  Scaly as a dry bulb
thrown into a cellar

I used myself, let nothing use me.
Like being on a private dole,

sometimes more like kneading bricks in Egypt,
What life was there, was mine,

now and again to lay
one hand on a warm brick

and touch the sun’s ghost
with economical joy,

now and again to name
over the bare necessities.

So much for those days.  Soon
practice may make me middling-perfect, I’ll

dare inhabit the world
trenchant in motion as an eel, solid

as a cabbage-head.  I have invitations:
a curl of mist streams upward

from a field, visible as my breath,
houses along a road stand waiting

like old women knitting, breathless
to tell their tales.

spoken = Karen Marek