Space mildews at our touch.
The leaves of the poplar, slowly moving—
aren’t they moth-white, there in the moonbeams?
A million insects die every twilight,
no one even finds their corpses.
Death slowly moving among the bleached clouds,
knows us better than we know ourselves.
I am gliding backward away from those who knew me
as the moon grows thinner and finally shuts its lantern.
I can be replaced a thousand times,
a box containing death.
When you put out your hand to touch me
you are already reaching toward an empty space.
—Adrienne Rich, “Moth Hour”
I was 20 years old and had been casually and carefully exploring the poetic form for a couple of years, and I decided to enroll in a poetry class at the local university. We read Hart Crane, Louise Bogan, and Sharon Olds, among others. Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck” captivated me. I had never read anything as mysterious. I puzzled over it for hours. We took it apart in class and after that I was never the same.
Over the next year I drank all of her poetry collections like water, and I spilled everything back onto the page. She paved the way for me to write bravely, honestly, and fearlessly. Like myself, the person I was, the person I wished to be, the person I would become. It is with definite sadness and resignation that I accept her death, knowing that she’s left behind a legacy of power.
Good night, Adrienne.