It has been a strange few weeks in my world. Just yesterday, I finished The Descendants, a novel about many things, but ultimately about the loss of a loved one. The news has been full of the death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin and not more than an hour ago I learned, via social media, that poet Adrienne Rich passed away today at the age of 82.
In 2008 I posted this poem by Adrienne Rich:
In Those Years
In those years, people will say, we lost track
of the meaning of we, of you
we found ourselves
reduced to I
and the whole thing became
silly, ironic, terrible:
we were trying to live a personal life
and, yes, that was the only life
we could bear witness to
But the great dark birds of history screamed and plunged
into our personal weather
They were headed somewhere else but their beaks and pinions drove
along the shore, through rages of fog
where we stood, saying I
This poem seems particularly poignant to me this week. The news is full of Trayvon and Tyler Clementi and Dharun Ravi. There are politicians on NPR screaming about contraception and same sex marriage and the Supreme Court is currently debating on whether or not health care is constitutional. Forgive me for a slight moment of pessimism, but perhaps we have lost track.
I discovered Rich as an undergraduate and read “Diving into the Wreck” just like every other budding poet. I admired her poems but I think I admired her guts more. She was brave. She was political. She was unapologetic and she wrote it all down. She gave voice to difficult subjects, subjects we don’t like to look at and she made us look them right in the eye. But now, she’s gone.
As I type this post, I feel my chest tightening. It could be because I am tired and slightly bogged down in the horrors from the world this week. It could be because I am oversensitive. It could be because I see Trayvon in the faces of my students but I think it is simply because another great voice, a voice I took comfort in, has been silenced and I’m not quite sure where that leaves me.