Adrienne Rich

Country: United States
Language(s): English

Rauschenberg’s Bed

How a bed once dressed with a kindly quilt becomes
unsleepable site of anarchy   What body-holes expressed
their exaltation loathing exhaustion
what horse of night has pawed those sheets
what talk under the blanket ravelled
what clitoris lain very still in her own subversion
what traveller homeward reached for familiar bedding
and felt stuff tatters under his fingers
How a bed is horizontal yet this is vertical
inarticulate liquids spent from a spectral pillow

How on a summer night someone drives out on the roads
while another one lies ice-packed in dreams of freezing

Sometimes this bed has eyes, sometimes breasts
sometimes eking forth from its laden springs
pity compassion pity again for all they have worn and borne
Sometimes it howls for penis sometimes vagina sometimes
for the nether hole the everywhere

How the children sleep and wake
the children   sleep awake upstairs

How on a single night the driver of roads comes back
into the sweat-cold bed of the dreamer

leans toward what’s there for warmth
human limbs   human crust


In the old city   incendiaries abound
who hate this place stuck to their footsoles
Michael Burnhard is being held and I
can tell you about him   pushed-out and living
across the river   low-ground given to flooding
in a shotgun house
his mother working for a hospital
or restaurant   dumpsters   she said a restaurant
hospital cafeteria who cares
what story
you bring home with the food

I can tell you Michael knows beauty
from the frog-iris in mud
the squelch of ankles
stalking the water-lily
the blues beat flung across water from the old city

Michael Burnhard in Black History Month
not his month only when he was born there
not black and almost without birthday one
February 29 Michael Burnhard

on the other side of the river
glancing any night at his mother’s wrists
cross-hatched raw
beside the black-opal stream

Michael Burnhard still beside himself
when fire took the old city
lying like a black spider on its back
under the satellites and a few true stars


Darkblue shot with deathrays but only a short distance
keep of course water and batteries, antibiotics
I love the infinity of these silent spaces
Always look at California for the last time

We weren't birds, were we, to flutter past each other
But what were we meant to do, standing or lying down
Together on the bare slope where we were driven
The most personal feelings become historical

Keep your hands knotted deep inside your sweater
While the instruments of force are more credible than beauty
Inside a glass paperweight dust swirls and settles
Where was the beauty anyway when we shouldered past
               each other

Where is it now in the hollow lounge
Or the frounded airline where the cameras
For the desouling projext are being handed out
Each of us instructed to shoot the others naked

If you want to feel the true time of our universe
Put your hands over mine on the stainless pelvic rudder
No, here  (sometimes the most impassive ones will shudder)
The infinity of these spaces comforts me
Simple textures falling open like a sweater