THE FACT OF A DOORFRAME POEM BY POEM
The glass has been falling all the afternoon,
And knowing better than the instrument
What winds are walking overhead, what zone
Of gray unrest is moving across the land,
I leave the book upon a pillowed chair
And walk from window to closed window, watching
Boughs strain against the sky.
And think again, as often when the air
Moves inward toward a silent core of waiting,
How with a single purpose time has traveled
By secret currents of the undiscerned
Into this polar realm. Weather abroad
And weather in the heart alike come on
Regardless of prediction.
Between foreseeing and averting change
Lies all the mastery of elements
Which clocks and weatherglasses cannot alter.
Time in the hand is not control of time,
Nor shattered fragments of an instrument
A proof against the wind; the wind will rise,
We can only close the shutters.
I draw the curtains as the sky goes black
and set a match to candles sheathed in glass
Against the keyhole draught, the insistent whine
Of weather through the unsealed aperture.
This is our sole defense against the season;
These are the things that we have learned to do
Who live in troubled regions.
– Adrienne Rich
Poet: Adrienne Rich (1929-2012)
Book: The Fact of a Doorframe, Selected Poems 1950-2001
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
I am walking my in-house social distancing mile past the poetry books when I spot Adrienne Rich. I wait until I come around again. I stop at her shelf, move the glass door to the left and reach in for The Fact of a Doorframe. It has been a rough couple of months, and I cannot remember if I have ever opened this complimentary Review Copy. I hold onto it while I circle another one-tenth of a mile before stopping to look through it. I get no further than the first poem from 1951. Storm Warnings. I am thinking COVID19. Storm Warnings. My daughter has tested positive, and I have just returned from visiting her before the six-feet social distancing order. Storm Warnings. The poem was written in 1951. I was nine years old, and the sister of a classmate had just come down with Polio. Storm Warnings.
Some poems need no explanation, no parsing, no literary dredging. I read the poem only once before I knew I would not return it right away to its shelf. I have been reading it over and over. My daughter’s virus was mild, and she recovered, but her father’s was not, and he did not recover. My sons and daughter, with the rest of the world, now know there is little defense for those “Who live in troubled regions.” – Sunny Solomon