Poem – Splittings by Adrienne Rich

February’s Poetry Challenge poem of the month is the magnificent ‘Splittings’

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Splittings
from The Dream of a Common Language
by Adrienne Rich

1.
My body opens over San Francisco like the day –
light raining down      each pore crying the change of light
I am not with her     I have been waking off and on
all night to that pain     not simply absence but
the presence of the past      destructive
to living here and now      Yet if I could instruct
myself, if we could learn to learn from pain
even as it grasps us      if the mind, the mind that lives
in this body could refuse      to let itself be crushed
in that grasp     it would loosen      Pain would have to stand
off from me and listen     its dark breath still on me
but the mind could begin to speak to pain
and pain would have to answer:
We are older now
we have met before     these are my hands before your eyes
my figure blotting out      all that is not mine
I am the pain of division      creator of divisions
it is I who blot your lover from you
and not the time-zones or the miles
It is not separation calls me forth      but I
who am separation      And remember
I have no existence      apart from you

2.
I believe I am choosing something now
not to suffer uselessly     yet still to feel
Does the infant memorize the body of the mother
and create her in absence?     or simply cry
primordial loneliness?      does the bed of the stream
once diverted      mourning       remember the wetness?
But we, we live so much in these
configurations of the past      I choose
to separate her     from my past we have not shared
I choose not to suffer uselessly
to detect primordial pain as it stalks toward me
flashing its bleak torch in my eyes     blotting out
her particular being     the details of her love
I will not be divided      from her or from myself
by myths of separation
while her mind and body in Manhattan are more with me
than the smell of eucalyptus coolly burning      on these hills

3.
The world tells me I am its creature
I am raked by eyes     brushed by hands
I want to crawl into her for refuge     lay my head
in the space     between her breast and shoulder
abnegating power for love
as women have done      or hiding
from power in her love     like a man
I refuse these givens      the splitting
between love and action      I am choosing
not to suffer uselessly      and not to use her
I choose to love      this time      for once
with all my intelligence.

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