Adrienne Rich died last month. Friends of mine talked and wrote about it more eloquently than I could at the time, but for some reason I kept this little lady with the enormous brain and talent and reach (who knows where her words went, who they saved, what they do?) on my mind, remembered seeing her long ago when my sister shepherded her around a reading at Georgetown and I went down to hear. I remembered out of nowhere a long-buried sense of revelation then, of feeling like I was staring into a new mirror, a person who stood matter of factly at a podium and spoke, in what were, to me, deep, yet entirely accessible truths.
I had buried it like I'd buried so much in these years so I could be what I thought I was supposed to be instead, shape-shifting to attempt to please an ultimately unpleasable person, in the blind act of crafting what I imagined as an acceptable life, until two years ago or so when everything on the surface started cracking for real and I began through pain and depression and necessity and night after dark night of the soul to come back to a self I knew deep down I'd never fully owned. (I don't think now that I knew how. I think I needed to work a little harder at it first, needed some help I hadn't found yet.)
So after her death I started reading Adrienne Rich's words late at night through a brand new time of not entirely easy transition for me. She has a lot of words, thankfully, so I had that much to work with.
There is so much I could have latched onto, really, and I do not reject complexity out of hand, although I call bullshit on affectation pretty quickly. I can be bought for cheap, though, with lines like "language uncommon and agile as truth" and "her wounds came from the same source as her power."
But then she said it was only a door. Either you will go through it, or you won't. I read that at first, time and time again on Twitter because Twitterlandia loves its repetition, and thought "Duh, no shit it's a door. It's only a door." And then, this is a door, I'd read and think about how what I was crawling through (because poetry has to lodge somewhere personal, right? It's so...weird.) felt like so much broken glass and beg to differ with that blanket statement. But really, if I adjusted the aperture and fixed the focus, which are always wise things to do when the light and movement shift, she was right. I wasn't on my knees. I was luckier than that. This was just another room I was looking into in this personal fun house, a space beyond where I'd been.
This was only a door.
And if I didn't go through it, she said, this now dead person I believed for no reason other than it seemed like a good idea? If at the last I let myself be overcome by the fear I expected to set the terms? I'd be okay, really.
But if you don't, much will blind you/much will evade you/at what cost who knows?
Her wounds came from the same source as her power.
What could blind and evade me was my greatest fear, beyond the short-term risk, I guess. I couldn't quantify the cost to counterpoint the monetary loss so far, and that was a huge problem, remains a problem. It's scary. I don't even know the extent of the credits and debits. I slipped some paperwork into an envelope and sent it off today, gagging on the decimal points and percentages, terrified of the consequences, understanding for the first time, really, what I was giving up in real life terms, as bad as a lot of it was, as pressing as the need to leave it.
Back at home I try to knit together an inbox that doesn't make any sense yet, to craft something that will support me from nothing, to hope that my skills and will and connections and track record will lead to something more than me and a couch and columns of credits and debits.
It's not even a week. It's still only a door, a large and an amorphous and a scary one, but a door all the same. It makes no promises. If you go through it, there is always, a gifted poet once wrote, the risk of remembering your name.
This post is because of and in large part is a reflection of the genius words of Adrienne Rich. Please go buy one of her books, or go read Amy Turn Sharp's Poem a day for a year, or buy somebody's chapbook, or do something nice for a scared person. I'll be giving back for my whole life all that has been sent my way, so it's nice to have some company.