Your Native Land, Your Life
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A major American poet faces her own native land, her own life, and the result is a volume of compelling, transforming poems.
The book includes two extraordinary longer works: the self-exploratory "Sources" and "Contradictions―Tracking Poems," an ongoing index of an American woman's life.
The poet writes, "In these poems I have been trying to speak from, and of, and to, my country. To speak of a different claim from those staked by the patriots of the sword; to speak of the land itself, the cities, and of the imaginations that have dwelt here, at risk, unfree, assaulted, erased. I believe more than ever that the search for justice and compassion is the great wellspring for poetry in our time, throughout the world, though the theme of despair has been canonized in this country. I draw strength from the traditions of all those who, with every reason to despair, have refused to do so."
among the abstract worlds and how I longed to live on this earth walking her boundaries never counting the cost 19. If to feel is to be unreliable don’t listen to us if to be in pain is to be predictable embittered bullying then don’t listen to us If we’re in danger of mistaking our personal trouble for the pain on the streets don’t listen to us if my fury at being grounded frightens you take off on your racing skis in your beautiful tinted masks Trapped in one idea, you
psychos when they said their bodies contained dioxin like memories they didn’t want to keep whose kids came out deformed You know nothing has changed no respect or grief for the losers of a lost war everyone hated nobody sent them to school like heroes if they started sueing for everything that was done there would be no end there would be a beginning My country wedged fast in history stuck in the ice 24. Someone said to me: It’s just that we don’t know how
say: no person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors. (I make up this strange, angry packet for you, threaded with love.) I think you thought there was no such place for you, and perhaps there was none then, and perhaps there is none now; but we will have to make it, we who want an end to suffering, who want to change the laws of history, if we
the man glancing, darting for food in the supermarket trash— when did his hunger come to this? what made the difference? what will make it for you? What will make it for you? You don’t want to know the stages and those who go through them don’t want to tell You have your four locks on the door your savings, your respectable past your strangely querulous body, suffering sicknesses of the city no one can name You have your pride, your bitterness your memories of sunset you think you
Why are you telling us this? patch of sun on a gritty floor, bad dreams, a torn newspaper, someone’s blood in a scraped basin. . . . 1983 Upcountry The silver shadow where the line falls grey and pearly the unborn villages quivering under the rock the snail travelling the crevice the furred, flying white insect like a tiny intelligence lacing the air this woman whose lips lie parted after long speech her white hair unrestrained All that you never paid or