i dreamed i called you on the telephone to say: be kinder to yourself
Adrienne Rich died about ten days ago, which, if I can be frank: is some bullshit. It’s almost unbearably sad. The way I perceive loss has been changing over the last few years (I do a lot better with death these days than I used to, is the short story) and at first this didn’t affect me too much, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more this weekend, and as the days have worn on, the sense of loss is beginning to take shape – and it’s significant. I wasn’t entirely sure why until it hit me all in a rush this morning, in the shower of all places, but after I realized it, I wasn’t really sure how I couldn’t have known this plainly, right after I first heard: I owe so much of who I am to Adrienne Rich, and Adrienne Rich is dead.
She was such an amazing woman, and I won’t go into too much detail because there are far better worded and more eloquent tributes elsewhere than I could ever create (witness the trainwreck that is this sentence, for crying out loud) but I will say that the main things in my life that I have ever wanted to be are as follows, in chronological order and grouped into general themes: writer, teacher, advocate, feminist. And Adrienne Rich did all of those things – she was all of those things – so beautifully and so perfectly that I didn’t even entirely realize how inspired I was by her until about a year ago, after I’d been reading her for the better part of a decade. Even after I could identify her as a primary influence in my life, I still thought of her as some larger-than-life superhuman removed entity – except she wasn’t. She was an exactly-the-size-of-life, very human, very connected woman, and now she’s gone, and the loss I feel is almost indescribable.
I guess I don’t really know why I’m writing this, other than that I think it’s terribly sad that the world has lost such an outstanding poet, feminist, advocate, and woman, and I think it’s terrible that we aren’t talking about it – that I’m not talking about it.
Here is the first poem of hers, by one of those eerie coincidences that the universe throws at us sometimes, that I read after I heard that she died: For the Dead, which I didn’t remember having read before, but which resounded in me immediately and, it would seem, permanently.
I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped
or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave
Me too, friend.