a clear night


Adrienne Rich
A clear night if the mind were clear

If the mind were simple, if the mind were bare
of all but the most classic necessities:
wooden spoon knife mirror
cup lamp chisel
a comb passing through hair beside a window
a sheet
thrown back by the sleeper

A clear night in which two planets
seem to clasp each other in which the earthly grasses
shift like silk in starlight
If the mind were clear
and if the mind were simple you could take this mind
this particular state and say
This is how I would live if I could choose:
that is what is possible

A clear night. But the mind
of the woman imagining all this the mind
that allows all this to be possible
is not clear as the night
is never simple cannot clasp
its truths as the transiting planets clasp each other
does not so easily
work free from remorse
does not so easily
manage the miracle
for which mind is famous
or used to be famous
does not at will become abstract and pure

this woman’s mind

does not even will that miracle
having a different mission
in the universe

If the mind were simple if the mind were bare
it might resemble a room a swept interior
but how could this now be possible
given the voices of the ghost-towns
their tiny and vast configurations
needing to be deciphered
the oracular night
with its densely working sounds

If it could ever come down to anything like
a comb passing through hair beside a window

no more than that
a sheet
thrown back by the sleeper

but the mind of the woman thinking this is wrapped in battle
is on another mission
a stalk of grass dried feathery weed rooted in snow
in frozen air stirring a fierce wand graphing

Her finger also tracing
pages of a book
knowing better than the poem she reads
knowing through the poem
through ice-feathered panes
the winter
flexing its talons
the hawk-wind
poised to kill

Photo by Zé Zorzan on Unsplash

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