“Translations” by Adrienne Rich


Adrienne Rich (1929-2012), American poet, essayist.  Enjoy!


You show me the poems of some woman
my age, or younger
translated from your language

Certain words occur: enemy, oven, sorrow
enough to let me know
she’s a woman of my time


with Love, our subject:
we’ve trained it like ivy to our walls
baked it like bread in our ovens
worn it like lead on our ankles
watched it through binoculars as if
it were a helicopter
bringing food to our famine
or the satellite
of a hostile power

I begin to see that woman
doing things: stirring rice
ironing a skirt
typing a manuscript till dawn

trying to make a call
from a phonebooth

The phone rings unanswered
in a man’s bedroom
she hears him telling someone else
Never mind. She’ll get tired.
hears him telling her story to her sister
who becomes her enemy
and will in her own time
light her own way to sorrow

ignorant of the fact this way of grief
is shared, unnecessary
and political

From DIVING INTO THE WRECK (Norton, 1973)




  1. This poem reminds me of a poem that I wrote called “Jealousy teach her something”. You are most welcome to visit my blog and have a look. 🙂


  2. I love Adrienne Rich’s activism and social justice work, I really should get on poetry. This is my favorite line from the poem:
    “ignorant of the fact this way of grief
    is shared, unnecessary
    and political”


Comments are closed.