diving into the wreck

Adrienne Rich has passed away.


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.


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