Conjugate the word “find” any way you want —
To find. To be found. Finding.
and you will discover my obsession. Maybe you’ll become enchanted, too.
To know what I am talking about, listen to the long “i” in find and compare it with the “ow” inside found. There is, in those two words, a dance between longing and receiving; between the imagined and the concrete.
* * *
I can’t say it any better than this. Not yet. I apologize if I am being vague. I am not used to being vague. I blame poetry.
* * *
Perhaps the anecdote behind this book (the one opened in the picture above) will help.
I found it in the giveaway pile near the recycling bins a few months ago. I was in the middle of a semester studying poetry and while I had heard of Adrienne Rich, I didn’t know much of her work. So I brought the book home, read the collection once, and it sat with me so-so, which is to say I didn’t find anything particularly meaningful to me just then.
But the other day I pulled the book out from the shelf and did what I do sometimes — opened up to any page and see what wisdom or guidance I am offered. My finger landed on this poem.
The wisdom — and perhaps, a more concrete explanation of my obsession with finding — comes in the sixth stanza, beginning with “I’m trying for exactitude.” Because this, in some way, is the essence of my obsession — a lifelong “trying for exactitude,” a lifelong desire for certainty, accuracy and control; a lifelong attempt to get it right; as if there is truly a way to find my way to found.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
What Was, Is:
What Might Have Been, Might Be
by Adrienne Rich
What’s kept. What’s lost. A snap decision.
Burn the archives. Let them rot.
Begin by going ten years back.
A woman walks downstairs in a brownstone
in Brooklyn. Late that night, some other night
snow crystals swarm in her hair
at the place we say, So long.
I’ve lost something. I’m not sure what it is.
I’m going through my files.
blue fire against an iron fence
Her head bent to a mailbox
long fingers ringed in gold in red-eyed
the autumn sun
burns like a beak off the cars
parked along Riverside we so deep in talk
in burnt September grass
I’m trying for exactitude
in the files I handle worn and faded labels
And how she drove, and danced, and fought, and worked
and loved, and sang, and hated
dashed into the record store then out
with the Stevie Wonder back in the car
Worn and faded labels . . . This was
our glamor for each other
underlined in bravado
Could it have been another way:
could we have been respectful comrades
parallel warriors none of that
could we have kept a clean
and decent slate