Adrienne Rich

After Dark

You are falling asleep and I sit looking at you
old tree of life
old man whose death I wanted
I can't stir you up now.

Faintly a phonograph needle
whirs round in the last groove
eating my heart to dust.
That terrible record! how it played

down years, wherever I was
in foreign languages even
over and over, I know you better
than you know yourself	I know

you better than you know
yourself	I know
you	  until, self-maimed,
I limped off, torn at the roots,

stopped singing a whole year,
got a new body, new breath,
got children, croaked for words,
forgot to listen

or read your mene tekel fading on the wall,
woke up one morning
and knew myself your daughter.
Blood is a sacred poison.

Now, unasked, you give ground.
We only want to stifle
what's stifling us already.
Alive now, root to crown, I'd give
 -oh,  - something - not to know
our struggles now are ended.
I seem to hold you, cupped
in my hands, and disappearing.

When your memory fails -
no more to scourge my inconsistencies -
the sashcords of the world fly loose.
A window crashes

suddenly down.  I go to the woodbox
and take a stick of kindling
to prop the sash again.
I grow protective toward the world.

Now let's away from prison -
Underground seizures!
I used to huddle in the grave
I'd dug for you and bite

my tongue for fear it would babble
 - Darling -
I thought they'd find me there
someday, sitting upright, shrunken,

my hair like roots and in my lap
a mess of broken pottery -
wasted libation -
and you embalmed beside me.

No, let's away.  Even now
there's a walk between doomed elms
(whose like we shall not see much longer)
and something”grass and water”

an old dream-photograph.
I'll sit with you there and tease you
for wisdom if you like,
waiting till the blunt barge

bumps along the shore.
Poppies burn in the twilight
like smudge pots.
I think you hardly see me

but - this is the dream now -
your fears blow out,
off, over the water.
At the last, your hand feels steady.

spoken = Karen Marek