Kundalini Splendor

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

For Adrienne Rich

Note: Adrienne Rich was one of my favorite poets.  She died a few weeks ago and I consider her passing a great loss to the world of poetry and the world of authentic being.  She was always willing to speak out about oppression, whether of women as a sex, or sexual orientation (she lived the later part of her life as a lesbian), minorities (she was a Jew), and the injustice of governments against  the ordinary folk.  She was above all both honest and "authentic" in whatever she did, and stood up when others sat down or left the scene.  She was a major voice in getting women equality of rights and recognition in a time of patriarchal dominance.  And, of course, she was one of the most gifted poets among us, serving as a great inspiration to her contemporaries and those who follow.

Today, as I was browsing around on my personal documents file, I came across this poem, written several years ago, as a tribute to Adrienne. I had, frankly, forgotten all about it, but thought I would share it today as my personal recognition of her enormous contribution.
I think I was especially fond of her because she was almost exactly my own age (early eighties).  She and I lived through some of the major social transitions of our time, she in center stage, me more on the sidelines (though active in my own way).  Heroine and witness, we traveled the changes of the last century and the beginning years of this one together, though we never truly met.

For Adrienne Rich

Whether you like it or not
I am writing this poem to you.

Whether you care
or would like to stop me,
putting some kind of small cloth
in my throat, or perhaps
a rubber band
across my mouth,
no matter,
too late,
nothing will do.

We two have ridden the landscape
for almost eighty years,
you not knowing
who I was,
even that I existed,
me keeping my eye on you
from a distance.

I watched you when you
were the young bride,
rebelling against your role,
or perhaps just the live-in
of a fellow in an undisclosed
talking of cigarettes and
looking bright and
full of hope.

I taught your poems to my classes,
explaining about the art of
why lions were a symbol,
and—later—what lesbians were,
how they, too, fell in love
and lived together in fidelity,
at least for awhile,
just like normal people,
the other, accepted folks.

Frankly, those poems helped
especially those like me,
also a lover of my own kind,
fearful to find my voice.

And now, later, here you are,
queen of poets,
mother who helped bring to birth
an age undreamed of
in terms of who we are now,
of who you are now,
still speaking out in your strong voice
against oppression,
injustice wherever it appears,
those who would squeeze “others”
(however they appear)
into a box of their own defining,
perhaps to destroy them
when they do not fit.

Frankly, I loved those early poems,
for I was (unbeknownst to anyone,
or so I supposed,)
also a lover of my own kind,
but it was (I thought) a secret destiny.
Some of us did not dare speak out,
but you gave us voice
and courage.

And now, too, your attention turned
to the world stage,
your roots and genesis,
your Jewish heritage,
how noble you appear,
how much a beacon
in a time of growing dark,
despite all,
your advancing years,

your physical challenges.
You were never one to wince
or turn away,
and so also now
in this, your final stage.
I watch you close as ever,
applaud your choices
grown to final bloom.

Dorothy Walters
June 21, 2004

(photo found on wikipedia--Adrienne in her somewhat younger days)

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