I’ve lost something. I’m not sure what it is.

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.

*    *    *

A snapshot of a page inside my copy of  Adrienne Rich's Your Native Land, Your Life

A snapshot of a page inside my copy of Adrienne Rich’s Your Native Land, Your Life

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.

Jewel-weed flashing
blue fire against an iron fence
Her head bent to a mailbox
long fingers ringed in gold   in red-eyed
golden serpents

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
flew on

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
fast-falling

could we have kept a clean
and decent slate

 

 

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5 thoughts on “I’ve lost something. I’m not sure what it is.

  1. Paul W Sonstein says:

    Is there really exactitude and do we need to obsess or search for it? Cannot peace be found in the comfort zone of choice? If you do reach exactitude, what assurance is there of satisfaction?

    • Jen says:

      It totally does which is both comforting and grounding. Nothing any of us does is the first time anything has been done… no matter how alone we feel, or how special.

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