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Rich, Adrienne. Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-1998. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.

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Rich, Adrienne. Midnight Salvage: Poems 1995-1998. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999.

A Physical Conversation

Adrienne Rich writes a long conversation, in A Long Conversation, with multiple and fluid dialogues. Interpretations of these dialogues are rich, thick and endless. Her dialogues include a conversation between past and present times, between past and present theories, between great minds and regular people, between the subject and creation of art and its place in time, and the conversation of the physical. For Rich, the physical is not just body to body, but also mind to body, and body to time. In recognizing that the physical is just as fluid a dialogue as verbal communication, Rich explores a long physical conversation and gives it new meaning in each of the many sections of the poem.

Body to body and heart to heart. Physical communication goes beyond the typical interpretation of sex and can be an internal process. Rich starts her poem with such an acknowledgement, “-warm bloom of blood in the child’s arterial tree” (53). This first line helps to establish life – the life of a child and the life of the poem. The tree in itself gives solidity in genealogical meaning - generations have come before and generations will follow. The blood in the child’s arterial tree expands out and gives life to all the body, the body that will later/always participate in the long conversation of life. A few lines down, Rich makes reference to death from cold, a throwback to phrases said to kids, “Come out of the cold, you’ll catch your death.” This cold could freeze the “bloom of blood,” but what would a child know of that physical interaction. For a child, life is the ball game that he/she is playing, causing “color still high in your...


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...inally, Rich paints a picture of beauty in what could be called physical decay. One of the last stanzas says and asks, “In the dark windowglass/ a blurred face/ - is it still mine?” (69). The blurred face is as much old age as a difficulty grasping the passing of time and seeing the change. The physical identities and actions that occur throughout a lifespan make it difficult to determine the current identity and physically it is hard to believe.

Rich makes the physical imagery come full cycle in showing the physical nature of time and communication. The body learns communication in youth and from there fine tweaks and fluidly melds the process physically as much as mentally to carry on life’s long conversation about the world and mankind at large. Looking back from the edge of the end, the journey might be blurred, but there is clarity and beauty in the process.


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