At the head of this poem I have laid out
a boning knife a paring knife a wooden spoon a pair of tongs.
Oaken grain beneath them olive and rusty light
And you looming: This is not your scene
this is the first frame of a film
I have in mind to make: move on, get out.
And you here telling me: What will be done
with these four objects will be done
through my lens not your words.
The poet shrugs: I was
only in the kitchen
looking at the chopping board. (Not the whole story.)
And you telling me: Awful is the scope
of what I have in mind, awful the music I shall deploy, most
awful the witness of the camera moving
out from the chopping board to the grains of snow
whirling against the windowglass to the rotating
searchlights of the tower. The humped snow-shrouded
laboring toward the border. This is not your bookish art.
But say the poet picks up the boning knife and thinks my bones
if she touching the paring knife thinks carrot, onion, celery
if staring at the wooden spoon I see the wood is split
as if from five winters of war
when neither celery, onion, carrot could be found
or picking up the tongs I whisper What this was for
And did you say get on, get out, or just look out?
Were you speaking from exhaustion from disaster from your
last assignment were you afraid
for the vision in the kitchen, that it could not be saved
—no time to unload
the heavy cases to adjust the sensitive equipment
to seize the olive rusty light to scan the hand that
above the boning knife the paring knife the wooden spoon
the pair of tongs
to seize the snow before it blows away across the border’s
and the moon swims in a bluish bubble dimmed
by the rotating searchlights of the tower? Here
it is in my shorthand, do what you have in mind.
Adrienne Rich’s latest collection of poems Dark Fields of the Republic is due out in September 1995 from W. W. Norton. (1995)