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Adrienne Rich 10: Falling into the Ocean

you are not accountable

 to the life of your tribe

the breath of your planet..

                  North American Time, Adrienne Rich



falling into the ocean


the town he grew up in is falling into the ocean-- he is unmoved by this sinking:

the sea is reclaiming its turf, he says; the surrender is predictable, and watches the building

where he lived with his father sink into its hips and crack an arrow

in the stuccopointing upward to the always cloudy sky. He turns his back on it and the beach where he lived.


it’s just that easy to let go, you wonder, of home or homeland, of tribe or country.

drift on the water between there and here and not look back, empty the sand that once

ran through your fingers, gripped and released-you’re not sure half the time where you are

home is different from homeland and one you hold and one slips away, or burns in the

atmospheres, abandoned. Pieces fall in unknown territories and are absorbed into the land.


He studies what’s under the earth, not what’s on top of it. Listens for the seismic echoes

follows the liquefaction, water floating in sand siphoning out—a hypertension signaling

the first rumbles, a schism of the crust, the heart breaking, leaving a story behind

that strangers tell each other without pity for the ground below. His stories are subterranean—

the confinement of fire giving way.


in exile we write of lost cities, countries that formed the friction ridges on our fingerprints;

every story pushes harder, as if articulation is redemption, or at the very least allows us

to point to the place on the map where the house once stood. Maybe all of that:

houses and schools, roads and churches, even the neighbors are less the point

when the foundation gives way. Everything can be lost just that quick.


His relationship with memory is scant; he numbers the stories that are told

and well-rehearsed almost as if they hadn’t happened. Like the home

by the sea, they sink slowly, not into the ground, or into the ocean,

but into the skin, so tough we leave bits of it behind everywhere we go.

We must be aware of everything below, what skins materialize when lying fallow

what conjuring stir up this earth. Step lightly keep moving, home is up ahead.