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Monday, April 9, 2018

“An Atlas of a Difficult World” by Adrienne Rich



“I know you are reading this poem late, before leaving your office of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven across the plains’ enormous spaces around you. I know you are reading this poem in a room where too much has happened for you to bear where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed and the open valise speaks of flight but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem as the underground train loses momentum and before running up the stairs toward a new kind of love your life has never allowed. I know you are reading this poem by the light of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide while you wait for the newscast from the intifada. I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers. I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out, count themselves out, at too early an age. I know you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on because even the alphabet is precious. I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand because life is short and you too are thirsty. I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language guessing at some words while others keep you reading and I want to know which words they are. I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn between bitterness and hope turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse. I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read there where you have landed, stripped as you are.”
— From “An Atlas of a Difficult World”, Adrienne Rich.

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