THIS IS MY THIRD AND LAST ADDRESS TO YOU
by Adrienne Rich
The rest of the poems I'm going to present are from a book which is called Your Native Land, Your Life, and I guess it, too, is all about the spirit of place, of many places. Well, these are three short poems called "Poetry."
And this is called "Poetry II: Chicago." I call it that partly because there used to be a magazine called Poetry Chicago. I think there still is; I never see it anymore. But it was very important to me at one time in my life. And Chicago has been a city of poets. Gwendolyn Brooks, wonderful woman, wonderful poet, is one of them. And I was staying with my son in Chicago when I wrote this poem:
Someone at a table
under a brown metal lamp is studying
the history of poetry. Someone
in the library at closing time
has learned to say "modernism,"
"trope," "vatic," "text." She is
listening for shreds of music, he is
searching for his name back in the
old country. They cannot learn without teachers.
They are like us. What we were. If you
remember. In a corner of night, a voice
is crying in a kind of whisper more. Can
you remember when we thought the poets
taught how to live? That is not the
voice of a critic, or a common reader.
It is someone young, in anger, hardly
knowing what to ask, who finds our lines,
our glosses, wanting in this world.
Whatever a poet is at the point
of conception is conceived in these projects
of beige and gray bricks. Yes, poets
are born in wasted tracts like these.
Whatever color, sex, comes to term
in this winter's driving nights, and
the child pushes like a spear, a cry
through cracked cement, through zero air,
a spear, a cry of green. Yes, poets
endure these schools of fear balked,
yet unbroken where so much gets broken
trust, windows, pride the mother tongue
Wherever a poet is born, enduring depends
on the frailest of chances, who listened
to your murmuring over your little rubbish
who you let you be? Who gave you the books?
Who let you know you were not alone? Showed
you the twist of old strands, rapea, hemp or
silk, the beaded threads, the fiery lines
saying "this belongs to you" You have the right
you belong to the song of your mother's and
fathers, you have a people