A Debt to the World


from crush and splinter
death in the market

jeering robotic
dryice disrupt

to conjure mercy’s
persistent script

blotted smeared
and torn

let hair, nail-cuttings
nourish the vine and fig-tree

let man, woman
eat, be sheltered

Marx the physician laid his ear
over the heartbeat

pressed the belly
diagnosed the pain

but did not write
of lips roaming damp skin

hand plunged in hair

common luxuries
left us to name

what we light with the coalspark
living instantly in us

and to continue

(“Poetry isn’t easy to come by. You have to write it like you owe a debt to the world. In that way poetry
is how the world comes to be in you.” — Alan Davies, The Poetry Project Newsletter, No. 203, April/May 2005, p. 25)

© Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich is the author of more than sixteen volumes of poetry and four nonfiction prose books. She is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, including a MacArthur Fellowship and the 1999 Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.