Thursday, March 29, 2012


What Kind of Times Are These

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.
“What Kind of Times Are These”. © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich. Used by permission of the author and W.W. Norton, Inc.


  1. What a teacher by example Adrienne Rich was! We used to live not two miles from a meeting house like this one--had been a revolutionary period hospital on "The Oblong" --a space where NY and CT argued over ownership for a long time. Not just the Quakers, but Tories and Revolutionaries haunt this wonderful place, opened once a year for a day so people can go inside. Adrienne Rich opens it for any reader any time.

    1. Joan, this remains one of my favorite Rich poems, and your comment opens up its context in such a meaningful way. Thank you! And yes, we must talk about trees if we are have any hope of listening to the world, trees and water and the earth that holds them. And us.