Adrienne Rich





Integrity
from A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far

            the quality or state of being complete; unbroken 
                                                           condition; entirety 
                                                                       - Webster

A wild patience has taken me this far 

as if I had to bring to shore 
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor 
old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books 
tossed in the prow 
some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades. 
Splashing the oarlocks. Burning through. 
Your fore-arms can get scalded, licked with pain 
in a sun blotted like unspoken anger 
behind a casual mist.
 
The length of daylight 
this far north, in this 
forty-ninth year of my life 
is critical.
 
The light is critical: of me, of this 
long-dreamed, involuntary landing 
on the arm of an inland sea. 
The glitter of the shoal 
depleting into shadow 
I recognize: the stand of pines 
violet-black really, green in the old postcard 
but really I have nothing but myself 
to go by; nothing 
stands in the realm of pure necessity 
except what my hands can hold. 
Nothing but myself?... My selves. 
After so long, this answer. 
As if I had always known 
I steer the boat in, simply. 
The motor dying on the pebbles 
cicadas taking up the hum 
dropped in the silence. 

Anger and tenderness: my selves. 
And now I can believe they breathe in me 
as angels, not polarities. 
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius 
to spin and weave in the same action 
from her own body, anywhere -
even from a broken web. 

The cabin in the stand of pines 
is still for sale. I know this. Know the print 
of the last foot, the hand that slammed and locked that door, 
then stopped to wreathe the rain-smashed clematis 
back on the trellis 
for no one's sake except its own. 
I know the chart nailed to the wallboards 
the icy kettle squatting on the burner. 
The hands that hammered in those nails 
emptied that kettle one last time 
are these two hands 
and they have caught the baby leaping 
from between trembling legs 
and they have worked the vacuum aspirator 
and stroked the sweated temples 
and steered the boat here through this hot 
misblotted sunlight, critical light 
imperceptibly scalding 
the skin these hands will also salve.


spoken = Karen Marek