Adrienne Rich





1941

In the heart of pain where mind is broken
and consumed by body, I sit like you
on the rocky shore     (like you, not with you)

A windmill shudders, great blades cleave the air and corn is ground
for a peasant century’s bread and fear of hunger
(like that, but not like that)

Pewter sails drive down green water
barges shoulder fallowing fields
(Like then, not then)

If upstairs in the mill sunrise fell low and thin
on the pierced sleep of children hidden in straw
where the mauled hen had thrashed itself away

if some lost their heads and ran
if some were dragged

if some lived and grew old remembering
how the place by itself was not evil
had water, spiders, a cat

if anyone asked me—

How did you get here anyway?
Are you the amateur of drought? the collector 
of rains? are you poetry’s inadmissible 
untimely messenger?

By what right? 
In whose name? 
Do you