By the Way For Adrienne Rich
I’ve given it time, as if time were mine to give.
There was a dam, larger than Hoover or the President or the patent
For the metal creature that sucks up all the dust.
Words had to stop and ask permission before crossing over.
Oh, sometimes they were wild with the urgency of sweet
And leaped—Mostly the rest were kept in the net
Of swallowed or forbidden language.
I want to go back and rewrite all the letters.I lied frequently.
No. I was not O.K.
And neither was James Baldwin, though his essays
Were perfect spinning platters of comprehension of the fight
To assert humanness in a black-and-white world.
That’s how blues emerged, by the way—Our spirits needed a way to dance through the heavy mess.The music, a sack that carries the bones of those left alongside
The trail of tears when we were forced
To leave everything we knew by the way—
I constructed an individual life in the so-called civilized world.
We all did—far from the trees and plants Who had born us and fed us.
All I wanted was the music, I would tell you now—
Within it, what we cannot carry.I talk about then from a hotel room just miles
From your home in the East
Before you fled on your personal path of tears
To the West, that worn-out American Dream
Dogging your steps.
You lived on a pedestal for me then, the driven diver who climbed
Back up from the abyss, Venus on a seashell with a dagger
In her hands.
I had to look, and followed your tracks in the poems
Cut by suffering.
Aren’t they all?
We’re in the apocalyptic age of addiction and forgetting.
It’s worse now.
But that dam, I had to tell you.
I broke it open stone by stone.
It took a saxophone, flowers, and your words
Had something to do with it
I can’t say exactly how.
The trajectory wasn’t clean, even though it was sure.
Does that make sense?
Maybe it does only in the precincts of dreams and poetry,
Not in a country lit twenty-four hours a day to keep dreams stuck
Turning in a wheel
In the houses of money.
I read about transcendence, how the light
Came in through the window of a nearby traveller
And every cell of creation opened its mouth
To drink grace.
That’s what I never told you.