Adrienne Rich


Why does the outstretched finger of home
probe the dark hotel room like a flashlight beam

on the traveller, half-packed, sitting on the bed
face in hands, wishing her bag emptied again at home

Why does the young security guard
pray to keep standing watch forever, never to fly

Why does he wish he were boarding
as the passengers file past him into the plane

What are they carrying in their bundles
what vanities, superstitions, little talismans

What have the authorities intercepted
who will get to keep it

Half-asleep in the dimmed cabin
she configures a gecko

aslant the overhead bin   tendrils of vine
curling up through the cabin floor

buried here in night as in a valley
remote from rescue

Unfound, confounded, vain, superstitious, whatever we were before
now we are still, outstretched, curled, however we were

Unwatched the gecko, the inching of green
through the cracks in the fused imperious shell

Dreaming a womb’s languor volleyed in death
among fellow strangers

she has merely slept through the night
a nose nearby rasps, everyone in fact is breathing

the gecko has dashed into some crevice
of her brain, the tendrils retract

orange juice is passed on trays
declarations filled out in the sudden dawn

She can’t go on dreaming of mass death
this was not to have been her métier

she says to the mirror in the toilet
a bad light any way you judge yourself

and she’s judge, prosecutor, witness, perpetrator
of her time

‘s conspiracies of the ignorant
with the ruthless    She’s the one she’s looking at

This confessional reeks of sweet antiseptic
and besides she’s not confessing

her mind balks    craving wild onions
nostril-chill of eucalyptus

that seventh sense of what’s missing
against what’s supplied

She walks at thirty thousand feet into the cabin
sunrise crashing through the windows

Cut the harping she tells herself
You’re human, porous like all the rest

She was to have sat in a vaulted
library    heavy scrolls wheeled to a desk

for sieving, sifting, translating
all morning    then a quick lunch    thick coffee

then light descending slowly
on earthen-colored texts

but that’s a dream of dust
frail are thy tents    humanity

facing thy monologues of force
She must have fallen asleep reading

She must have fallen asleep reading
The woman who mopped the tiles

is deliquescent    a scarlet gel
her ligaments and lungs

her wrought brain    her belly’s pulse
disrupt among others mangled there

the chief librarian the beggar
the man with the list of questions

the scrolls never to be translated
and the man who wheeled the scrolls

She had wanted to find meaning in the past but the future drove
a vagrant tank a rogue bulldozer

rearranging the past in a blip
coherence smashed into vestige

not for her even the thought
of her children’s children picking up

one shard of tile then another laying
blue against green seeing words

in three scripts flowing through vines and flowers
guessing at what it was

the Levantine debris
Not for her but still for someone?