- Category: Culture
- Created on Tuesday, 01 December 2009 10:21
- Written by Adrienne Rich
A major voice in poetry for over 50 years, Adrienne Rich has also been a major political poet -- and essayist -- since the 1960s. Art, she said in the course of refusing the award of the National Medal of Arts at the Clinton White House, "means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage."
We reprint this poem from the Monthly Review website.
Ballade of the Poverties
by Adrienne Rich
There’s the poverty of the cockroach kingdom and the rusted toilet bowl The poverty of to steal food for the first time The poverty of to mouth a penis for a paycheck The poverty of sweet charity ladling Soup for the poor who must always be there for that There’s the poverty of theory poverty of the swollen belly shamed Poverty of the diploma mill the ballot that goes nowhere Princes of predation let me tell you There are poverties and there are poverties
There’s the poverty of cheap luggage bursted open at immigration The poverty of the turned head, the averted eyes The poverty of bored sex of tormented sex The poverty of the bounced check the poverty of the dumpster dive The poverty of the pawned horn the poverty of the smashed reading glasses The poverty pushing the sheeted gurney the poverty cleaning up the puke The poverty of the pavement artist the poverty passed-out on pavement Princes of finance you who have not lain there There are poverties and there are poverties
There is the poverty of hand-to-mouth and door-to-door And the poverty of stories patched-up to sell there There’s the poverty of the child thumbing the Interstate And the poverty of the bride enlisting for war There’s the poverty of prescriptions who can afford And the poverty of how would you ever end it There is the poverty of stones fisted in pocket And the poverty of the village bulldozed to rubble Princes of weaponry who have not ever tasted war There are poverties and there are poverties There’s the poverty of wages wired for the funeral you Can’t get to the poverty of the salary cut There’s the poverty of human labor offered silently on the curb The poverty of the no-contact prison visit There’s the poverty of yard sale scrapings spread And rejected the poverty of eviction, wedding bed out on street Prince let me tell you who will never learn through words There are poverties and there are poverties
You who travel by private jet like a housefly Buzzing with the other flies of plundered poverties Princes and courtiers who will never learn through words Here’s a mirror you can look into: take it: it’s yours.
For Jim and Arlene Scully with gratitude to François Villon and to Galway Kinnell