#poetry — Integrity by Adrienne Rich

the quality of being complete; unbroken condition; entirety
~ Webster

A wild patience has taken me this far

as if I had to bring to shore
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor
old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books
tossed in the prow
some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades.
Splashing the oarlocks. Burning through.
Your fore-arms can get scalded, licked with pain
in a sun blotted like unspoken anger
behind a casual mist.

The length of daylight
this far north, in this
forty-ninth year of my life
is critical.

The light is critical: of me, of this
long-dreamed, involuntary landing
on the arm of an inland sea.
The glitter of the shoal
depleting into shadow
I recognize: the stand of pines
violet-black really, green in the old postcard
but really I have nothing but myself
to go by; nothing
stands in the realm of pure necessity
except what my hands can hold.

Nothing but myself?….My selves.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known
I steer the boat in, simply.
The motor dying on the pebbles
cicadas taking up the hum
dropped in the silence.

Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider’s genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere —
even from a broken web.

The cabin in the stand of pines
is still for sale. I know this. Know the print
of the last foot, the hand that slammed and locked the door,
then stopped to wreathe the rain-smashed clematis
back on the trellis
for no one’s sake except its own.
I know the chart nailed to the wallboards
the icy kettle squatting on the burner.
The hands that hammered in those nails
emptied that kettle one last time
are these two hands
and they have caught the baby leaping
from between trembling legs
and they have worked the vacuum aspirator
and stroked the sweated temples
and steered the boat there through this hot
misblotted sunlight, critical light
imperceptibly scalding
the skin these hands will also salve.

My reflection:

While reading this poem, I couldn’t help but imagine a person reflecting upon their life thus far. Memories of the past are causing this individual to come to terms with the fact that they have evolved into more than one personality. I mean this in the sense that the person acknowledges that they may have acted in a manner that is not expected of them by others.

This idea is very present in the following lines:
“Nothing but myself? … My selves.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known
I steer the boat in, simply.”

I felt that this poem is very relatable in regards to me accepting my selves. Lately I have felt as if the person that I normally am is in conflict with my inner problems. I have allowed my angst take over and release an unpleasant aura, as if I’m trying to keep others away as a form of personal protection. Though I am working through these issues, I still cannot ignore that this angry personality is a part of me that I can steer within myself. As the poem states, “Anger and tenderness: my selves.” I would consider myself to be a very tender and caring person; however, these characteristics are learning how to harmonize with anger in order to be able to create a smooth sailing in the future. This will take time, it won’t happen immediately; but it will happen.

It’s already getting better.

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