for Adrienne Rich in 2006
The poet's hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.
You are not required to understand.
This is not the year for understanding.
This is the year of burning women in schoolyards
and raided homes
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Don’t you think you should have another child?
This girl I have is hardtack and dried lime
and reminds me, every groggy morning,
what a miracle it must have been
when outfitters learned to stock ship holds
with that one long lasting fruit. How the sailors’ tongues,
landing on its bitter brilliance, must have cursed
the curse of joy, as I did that morning the burst
of water brought my sweet girl into our lives.
But, already, she hates me sometimes.
Like I have sometimes hated my mother and she
must have sometimes hated her own.
After weeks at sea, the limes would desiccate and the meal
fill with worms. They would have eaten
anyway, the sailors, but taken no pleasure from anything.
Or taken no pleasure from anything but
the fact of their sustained lives. Which is to say it is all
I can do, most days, not to swallow
her up and curse her maker, I swear. Like I have not
sworn since the morning she was born.