Adrienne Rich


There is bracken there in the dark mulberry 
there is the village where no villager survived 
there are the hitlerians there are the foresters 
feeding the partisans from frugal larders

there is the moon ablaze in every quarter 
there is the moon "of tin and sage" and unseen pilots dropping 
explosive gifts into meadows of fog and crickets 
there is the cuckoo and the tiny snake

there is the table set at every meal 
for freedom whose chair stays vacant 
the young men in their newfound passions 
(Love along with them the ones they love)

Obscurity, code, the invisible existence
of a thrush in the reeds, the poet watching 
as the blood washes off the revolver in the bucket 
Redbreast, your song shakes loose a ruin of memories 
A horrible day…Perhaps he knew, at that final instant? 
The village had to be spared at any price… 
How can you hear me? I speak from so far… 
The flowering broom hid us in a blazing yellow mist… 
This war will prolong itself beyond any platonic armistice. The implanting 
of political concepts will go on amid upheavals and under cover of self-confi-
dent hypocrisy. Don't smile. Thrust aside both skepticism and resignation 
and prepare your soul to face an intramural confrontation with demons as 
cold-blooded as microbes. 
The poet in wartime, the Surréalistes' younger brother 
turned realist (the village had to be spared at any price) 
all eyes on him in the woods crammed with masquisards ex-
pecting him to signal to fire and save their comrade 
shook his head and watched Bernard's execution 
knowing that the random shooting of a revolver 
may be the simplest surreal act but never 
changes the balance of power and that real acts are not
The poet, prone to exaggerate, thinks clearly under torture
knowing the end of the war 
would mean no end to the microbes frozen in each soul 
the young freedom fighters i
n love with the Resistance 
fed by a thrill for violence 
familiar as his own jaw under the razor 
Insoluble riverrain conscience echo of the future 
I keep vigil for you here by the reeds of Elkhorn Slough 
and the brown mouth of the Salinas River going green 
where the white egret fishes the fragile margins 
Hermetic guide in resistance I've found you and lost you 
several times in my life   You were never just
the poet appalled and transfixed by war you were the maker 
of terrible delicate decisions and that did not smudge 
your sense of limits   You saw squirrels crashing 
from the tops of burning pines when the canister exploded 
and worse and worse and you were in charge of every risk 
the incendiary motives of others were in your charge 
and the need for a courage wrapped in absolute tact 
and you decided and lived like that and you 
held poetry at your lips a piece of wild thyme ripped 
from a burning meadow a mimosa twig 
from still unravaged country   You kept your senses 
about you like that and like this I keep vigil for you.