Page 38 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Often rebuked, yet always back returning
I place my hand on the hand
of the dead, invisible palm-print
on the doorframe.
Her return to tradition and her manual communitas at the door­
frame do not necessarily amount to the presence o f an invisible
but indirectly its memory lingers at the threshold. Sim­
ilarly, “The Stelae” evokes, by implication, the kind o f hidden
that modern Jewish writers might otherwise skip over:
It’s the stelae on the walls I want
that I never saw before
The stelae are so unlike you
swart, indifferent incised with signs
you have never deciphered.
These mysterious codes belong to a displaced
Rich’s title poem gives life to the mere “fact” of a doorframe
by placing the poet’s flesh against its wood:
The Fact of a Doorframe
means there is something to hold
onto with both hands
while slowly thrusting my forehead against the wood
and taking it away
one of the oldest motions of suffering.
What she holds onto with her atavistic grasp is tradition, both
poetic and Jewish, as the final stanza invokes the “bloodstained
splinters” of an ancient architecture:
Now, again, poetry,
violent, arcane, common,
hewn of the commonest living substance
into archway, portal, frame
I grasp for you, your bloodstained splinters, your
ancient and stubborn poise
as the earth trembles
burning out from the grain.
Adrienne Rich transforms fact into phenomenology, the static
fram e in to a moving exp e r ien ce — the open flow o f