Adrienne Rich has died. The penultimate love of my poetic life--one of only three who were alive when I was writing. Gwendolyn Brooks died a few years ago. Mary Oliver still lives.
a woman, darkhaired, in stained jeans
sleeps in central Africa.
In her dreams, her notebooks, still
private as maiden diaries,
the mountain gorillas move through their life term;
their gentleness survives
observation. Six bands of them
inhabit, with her, the wooded highland.
When I lay me down to sleep
unsheltered by any natural guardians
from the panicky life-cycle of my tribe
I wake in the old cellblock
observing the daily executions,
rehearsing the laws
I cannot subscribe to,
envying the pale gorilla-scented dawn
she wakes into, the stream where she washes her hair,
the camera-flash of her quiet
your body will haunt mine--tender, delicate
your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond
of the fiddlehead fern in forests
just washed by the sun. Your traveled, generous thighs
between which my whole face has come and come--
the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there--
the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth--
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I had been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave--whatever happens, this is.