Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich

I was hoping to share Adrienne Rich‘s poem “Cartographies of Silence” with you since I love it and I actually kind of understand it, but I’ve seen other websites have had to remove it due to copyright issues. She holds a special place in my heart, partly because I’m in awe of her talent and vision, and partly because I was first introduced to her at a time in my life for which I feel very nostalgic (lookin’ at you, Laura Carroll!). Instead of a poem about silence, here is this, which I think I also love, but which I barely understand at all. Let’s peruse it together, shall we, and honor this amazing poet whose death (Last Tuesday! And I only found out yesterday. The shame…) has left a meaningful silence in the world.

by Adrienne Rich

In paradise every 
the desert wind is rising
third thought
in hell there are no thoughts
is of earth
sand screams against your government
issued tent        hell’s noise
in your nostrils           crawl
into your ear-shell
wrap yourself in no-thought
wait     no place for the little lyric
wedding-ring glint the reason why
on earth
they never told you

“Wait” from The School Among the Ruins: Poems 2000-2004

Question: What images, impressions, or thoughts come to mind as you read this poem?


5 thoughts on “Adrienne Rich

  1. This brought to mind troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. I feel like maybe I’m not reading it right, that the spacing means I should be doing it in a different order, like the three italicized lines seem separate.

    1. Yeah, I wonder how it would read without the italicized lines, or even how it would be different if they were just their own stanza . I wonder how they effect the impressions we get from this poem. It reminded me of the wars over there, too, and I wondered what it was that they never told “you,” whoever that is in this poem. I wonder, too, about the juxtaposition of the ideas in the italicized lines (1. paradise, 2. paradise is imperfect, because those there still think of earth) and the kind of hell-on-earth described in the poem. Or at least it seemed pretty awful to me. Maybe I’m misreading it, too. I’m still thinking about this one. But isn’t it marvelous?

  2. I just don’t know how to discuss poetry! I didn’t even try to read it in the right order, I just couldn’t do it. I just read the italicized lines separately and then continued on. Also, this goes to show how far removed I am from the military for being an AF wife, I didn’t even think of the troops. I thought of the majestic desert of southeastern Utah where we recently visited. I thought of the wind in the desert, but just skipped over the government issued tent and what not. Maybe I should just stay out of this poetry club. 🙂

    1. I love your comments, Kim! I also read the lines separately the first time I read the poem. I couldn’t help it! And I love what you’re pointing out about the wind in the desert. Now that you bring it up, I totally see that.

  3. So I am incredibly late to this party but I am trying to catch up. I will be honest and say that I was really confused the first time I read it (really, the first image that came to my brain was a big giant question mark), and then I read all of your comments and read it again. After reading the italicized portions separately and then continuing with the rest of the poem, these are my thoughts. The italicized lines made me think of looking down at earth from the Heavens (I pictured it as us getting ready to come to earth and being anxious and excited) and then the rest of the poem is the harsh reality of what Life is actually like here. I don’t know, I’m probably thinking too hard about it. but those were the feelings I had.

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