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Published: Sat Apr 15 1995
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas

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
around them.
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
_                 _ tanks
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
_                                       _ reaches hovering
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
_                                       blacked-out sheds
and the moon swims in a bluish bubble dimmed
by the rotating searchlights of the tower?
it is in my shorthand, do what you have in mind.

See what's inside AGNI 41

Adrienne Rich has published over twenty books of poetry. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Book Award for Poetry, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship. (updated 6/2010)

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