Sunday, April 12, 2009

Adrienne Rich
1929- American

Tell me something
you say
Not: What are you working on now, is there anyone special,
how is the job
do you mind coming back to an empty house
what do you do on Sundays
Tell me something...
Some secret
we both know and have never spoken?
Some sentence that could flood with light
your life, mine?
Tell me what daughters tell their mothers
everywhere in the world, and I and only I
even have to ask....
Tell me something.

Lately, I hear it: Tell me something true,
daughter-in-law before we part,
tell me something true before I die

And time was when I tried.
You married my son, and so
strange as you are, you are my daughter
Tell me....

I’ve been trying to tell you, mother-in-law
that I think I’m breaking in two
and half of me doesn’t even want to love
I can polish this table to satin because I don’t care
I am trying to tell you, I envy
the people in mental hospitals their freedom
and I can’t live on placebos
or Valium, like you

A cut lemon scours the smell of fish away
You’ll feel better when the children are in school

I would try to tell you, mother-in-law
but my anger takes fire from yours and in the oven
the meal bursts into flames
Daughter-in-law, before we part
tell me something true

I polished the table, mother-in-law
and scrubbed the knives with half a lemon
the way you showed me to do
I wish I could tell you--
Tell me!
They think I’m weak and hold
things back from me. I agreed to this years ago.
Daughter-in-law, strange as you are,
tell me something true

tell me something

Your son is dead
ten years, I am a lesbian,
my children are themselves.
Mother-in-law, before we part
shall we try again? Strange as I am,
strange as you are? What do mothers
ask their own daughters, everywhere in the world?
Is there a question?
Ask me something.

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