Wednesday, February 07, 2007

PT: Change


LIVING MEMORY

Adrienne Rich


Open the book of tales you knew by heart,
begin driving the old roads again,
repeating the old sentences, which have changed
minutely from the wordings you remembered.
...

From here on instinct is uncompromised and clear:
the tales come crowding like the Kalevala
longing to burst from the tongue. Under the trees
of the backroad you rumor the dark
with houses, sheds, the long barn
moored like a barge on the hillside.
Chapter and verse. A mailbox. A dooryard.
A drink of springwater from the kitchen tap.
An old bed, old wallpaper. Falling to sleep like a child
in the heart of the story.

Reopen the book ...

I have watched
films from a Pathe camera, a picnic
in sepia. I have seen my mother
tossing an acorn into the air;
my grandfather, alone in the heart of his family;
my father, young, dark, theatrical;
myself, a six-month child.
Watching the dead we see them living
their moments, they were at play, nobody thought
they would be watched so...

Such details get bunched, packed, stored
in these cellar-holes of memory
so little is needed
to call on the power, though you can't name its name:
It has its ways of coming back:
a truck going into gear on the crown of the road
the white-throat sparrow's notes
the moon in her fullness standing
right over the concrete steps the way
she stood the night they landed there.
From here
nothing has changed, and everything.

The scratched and treasured photograph Richard showed me
taken in '29, the year I was born:
it's the same road I saw
strewn with the Perseids one August night,
looking older, steeper than now
and rougher, yet I knew it. Time's
power, the only just power--would you
give it away?

(These are excerpts from a much longer poem. Of "Living Memory," Rich writes: "I hope that the poem speaks for itself." It speaks to me, of change--how in photographs, in memory, "nothing has changed, and everything." The whole poem is too long to post--look it up!)
.

12 comments:

Tammy said...

Lots of things to think about here, even the title. Thanks for sharing it ;)

silverlight said...

She has pretty much expressed what we are all trying to say and do.

Pam said...

Such a powerful thing, memory. This is a moving, thoughtful piece.

desert rat said...

What a great poem. So true how all it takes is something small, a photo or a drive down a familiar road. Thanks for sharing this one.

Poet with a Day Job said...

You know, the first book of poetry anyone ever gave me was "Atlas of the Difficult World" by AR. She has always been for me a sort of Anne Carson, in that, I sense the brilliance within, I can even see it, but I simply cannot comprehend it. Dare I say, sort of like my belief in God.

wendy said...

From here
nothing has changed, and everything

I tried to express just this recently..and failed but this is what I meant to say.

The baby boy is growing beautifully. He makes me happy..just looking at him.

G said...

I love this powerful, moving poem. Thanks for posting it.

paris parfait said...

Thanks for the link - fabulous poem!

gautami tripathy said...

Glad you posted this. I will look her up for more.

gautami

Transposition.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I really enjoy Adrienne Rich's poetry, but htis is a new one to me. Thanks for sharing - I'll look up the rest of it!

Maryellen said...

I have not heard of this poet, so thank you for the exposure. Very poignant to me since I am currently photo journaling my own childhood before it disappears. I find the more I think about it the more I realize virtually every second is still in my mind and photos trigger the remembering.

I don't know if you do these, but consider yourself tagged for a Meme of your choice at my MeMe's for Maryellen site:
http://oldcrowknees2.blogspot.com/

pepektheassassin said...

Hi everybody~ many thanks for stopping by to comment. I was forced to switch to the *new* blogger last week, and since then my comments have not been working well. (And most of my old commenters identities have for some mysterious reason become anonymous...) :(