wood with a gift for burning

Adrienne Rich died recently and when I heard, I was saddened. I remembered she’d  made an impression on me when I was in my twenties, but I couldn’t recall exactly what that impact was. While reading a cache of poems recommended for a class I took from Paul Casella, who I will always be grateful to for this and the knowledge of many great poems I may have otherwise missed, the memory of its profound effect flooded me.


You’re wondering if I’m lonely:
OK then, yes, I’m lonely
As a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an air field on the ocean

You want to ask, am I lonely?
well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely

If I am lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawn’s first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep

If I’m lonely
it’s with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that know what it is, that knows it’s neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning.

The first time I read this poem it robbed me of breath, as if Ms. Rich had stolen my inhalation and used it to say exactly about me what I knew to be the truth. She made me feel gifted–that my volatile state was something powerful, elemental–which, at the time, I only had an inkling of.

Song gave me permission to burn, to stand apart, and fuel to write my own words.

Peace, gratitude, and Buen Viaje to the soul that brought her to us.

What writers and artists have spoken your truths for you? How did this connection manifest itself in your life? I would be honored if you would share your experiences with me.

This entry was posted in Poetry, Uncategorized and tagged , , by vsvevg. Bookmark the permalink.

About vsvevg

Hello, I'm Abby Smith. I started this blog in 2010 to write about the pursuit of a self-sustainable life in rural Mexico. In 2015, my then-husband and I moved to Nicaragua, where we created a successful farm-to-table and in-house charcuterie program for a high-end beach resort. In 2022, with mad butchery and cheese-making skills under my belt, I started a sustainable food systems consulting business. Happily, I also have more time for my first love-- writing about food and the complexities of the simple life.

8 thoughts on “wood with a gift for burning

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