By Adrienne Rich
A woman in the shape of a monster
a monster in the shape of a woman
the skies are full of them
a woman ‘in the snow
among the Clocks and instruments
or measuring the ground with poles’
in her 98 years to discover
she whom the moon ruled
levitating into the night sky
riding the polished lenses
Galaxies of women, there
doing penance for impetuousness
in those spaces of the mind
‘virile, precise and absolutely certain’
from the mad webs of Uranusborg
encountering the NOVA
every impulse of light exploding
from the core
as life flies out of us
Tycho whispering at last
‘Let me not seem to have lived in vain’
What we see, we see
and seeing is changing
the light that shrivels a mountain
and leaves a man alive
Heartbeat of the pulsar
heart sweating through my body
The radio impulse
pouring in from Taurus
I am bombarded yet I stand
I have been standing all my life in the
direct path of a battery of signals
the most accurately transmitted most
untranslatable language in the universe
I am a galactic cloud so deep so invo-
luted that a light wave could take 15
years to travel through me And has
taken I am an instrument in the shape
of a woman trying to translate pulsations
into images for the relief of the body
and the reconstruction of the mind.
Adrienne Rich, "Planetarium" from Collected Poems: 1950-2012. Copyright © 2016 by The Adrienne Rich Literary Trust. Copyright © 1971 W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. Reprinted by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc..
Source: The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 2002)
Adrienne Rich, born in Baltimore, Maryland, was a leading American poet with nineteen volumes of poetry and four books of essays. Rich was at the forefront of the feminist movement and brought her politics into poetry. She gained early fame when W.H. Auden selected A Change of World as winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1951. Since then, she won numerous awards including the National Book Award and the first Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. For many years she lived and taught in California.
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