Read this deep last night (or is it this morning?).



The scent of her beauty draws me to her place.
The desert stretches, edge from edge.
Rock. Silver grasses. Drinking hole.
The starry sky.
The lioness pauses
in her back-and-forth pacing of three yards square
and looks at me. Her eyes
are truthful. They mirror rivers,
seacoasts, volcanoes, the warmth
of moon-bathed promontories.
Under her haunches’ golden hide
flows an innate, half-abnegated power.
Her walk
is bounded. Three square yards
encompass where she goes.

In country like this, I say, the problem is always
one of straying too far, not of staying
within bounds. There are caves,
high rocks, you don’t explore. Yet you know
they exist.
Her proud, vulnerable head
sniffs toward them. It is her country, she
knows they exist.

I come towards her in the starlight.
I look into her eyes
as one who loves can look,
entering the space behind her eyeballs,
leaving myself outside.
So, at last, through her pupils,
I see what she is seeing:
between her and the river’s flood,
the volcano veiled in rainbow,
a pen that measures three yards square.
Lashed bars.
The cage.
The penance.

Adrienne Rich, The Dream of a Common Language, 1975

There is so much in this poem. Just so much. The pure physicality of the lioness, the way it conveys awe over its beauty and the fear of the viewer by trespassing its space; the power of rivers, seacoasts, volcanoes, to inspire the same, the innate power beneath the beauty of her body. The irresistible danger of straying into her territory, of the desire for the inaccessible caves and high rocks among the seas, the rivers, and volcanoes. Metaphors, all of them, I can physically feel, for sexuality and spirituality both, and for relationships with the human and the divine, the body and the spirit.