Thursday, March 29, 2012

This is no place you ever knew me

Adrienne Rich, one of my favorite poets, died this week. I first read her poems in high school, and some of her essays were assigned reading in my courses at UCSC. She lived in Santa Cruz, and when I was in school there I attended several of her poetry readings; once I waited in line to have a collection of her poetry signed.

This is from her poem “An Atlas of the Difficult World.” Such a perfect description of a place I love.

Within two miles of the Pacific rounding
this long bay, sheening the light for miles
inland, floating its fog through redwood rifts and over
strawberry and artichoke fields, its bottomless mind
returning always to the same rocks, the same cliffs with
ever-changing words, always the same language
--this is where I live now. If you had known me
once, you’d still know me now though in a different
light and life. This is no place you ever knew me.
But it would not surprise you
to find me here, walking in the fog, the sweep of the great ocean
eluding me, even the curve of the bay, because as always
I fix on the land. I am stuck to earth. What I love here
is old ranches, leaning seaward, lowroofed spreads between rocks
small canyons running through pitched hillsides
liveoaks twisted on steepness, the eucalyptus avenue leading
to the wrecked homestead, the fogwreathed heavy-chested cattle
on their blond hills. I drive inland over roads
closed in wet weather, past shacks hunched in the canyons
roads that crawl down into the darkness and wind into light
where trucks have crashed and riders of horses tangled
to death with lowstruck boughs. These are not the roads
you knew me by. But the woman driving, walking, watching
for life and death, is the same.

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