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1784: Frame | Adrienne Rich

"Frame"
Adrienne Rich

Winter twilight. She comes out of the lab-
oratory, last class of the day
a pile of notebooks slung in her knapsack, coat
zipped high against the already swirling
evening sleet. The wind is wicked and the
busses slower than usual. On her mind
is organic chemistry and the issue
of next month’s rent and will it be possible to
bypass the professor with the coldest eyes
to get a reference for graduate school,
and whether any of them, even those who smile
can see, looking at her, a biochemist
or marine biologist, which of the faces
can she trust to see her at all, either today
or in any future. The busses are worm-slow in the
quickly gathering dark. I don’t know her. I am
standing though somewhere just outside the frame
of all of this, trying to see. At her back
the newly finished building suddenly looks
like shelter, it has glass doors, lighted halls
presumably heat. The wind is wicked. She throws a
glance down the street, sees no bus coming and runs
up the newly constructed steps into the newly
constructed hallway. I am standing all this time
just beyond the frame, trying to see. She runs
her hand through the crystals of sleet about to melt
on her hair. She shifts the weight of the books
on her back. It isn’t warm here exactly but it’s
out of that wind. Through the glass
door panels she can watch for the bus through the thickening
weather. Watching so, she is not
watching the white man who watches the building
who has been watching her. This is Boston 1979.
I am standing somewhere at the edge of the frame
watching the man, we are both white, who watches the building
telling her to move on, get out of the hallway.
I can hear nothing because I am not supposed to be
present but I can see her gesturing
out toward the street at the wind-raked curb
I see her drawing her small body up
against the implied charges. The man
goes away. Her body is different now.
It is holding together with more than a hint of fury
and more than a hint of fear. She is smaller, thinner
more fragile-looking than I am. But I am not supposed to be
there. I am just outside the frame
of this action when the anonymous white man
returns with a white police officer. Then she starts
to leave into the windraked night but already
the policeman is going to work, the handcuffs are on her
wrists he is throwing her down his knee has gone into
her breast he is dragging her down the stairs I am unable
to hear a sound of all of this all that I know is what
I can see from this position there is no soundtrack
to go with this and I understand at once
it is meant to be in silence that this happens
in silence that he pushes her into the car
banging her head in silence that she cries out
in silence that she tries to explain she was only
waiting for a bus
in silence that he twists the flesh of her thigh
with his nails in silence that her tears begin to flow
that she pleads with the other policeman as if
he could be trusted to see her at all
in silence that in the precinct she refuses to give her name
in silence that they throw her into the cell
in silence that she stares him
straight in the face in silence that he sprays her
in her eyes with Mace in silence that she sinks her teeth
into his hand in silence that she is charged
with trespass assault and battery in
silence that at the sleet-swept corner her bus
passes without stopping and goes on
in silence. What I am telling you
is told by a white woman who they will say
was never there. I say I am there.


On this day in...
2012: "Apples" by Anzhelina Polonskaya
2011: "The Sciences Sing a Lullabye" by Albert Goldbarth
2010: No poem
2009: "Embrace" by Billy Collins
2008: “Love Poem from First Indian on the Moon” by Sherman Alexie

you know how hard I tried/to make a bridge, to make a tunnel/[...]between the human and divine in both of us,/between spirit and animal. That I failed is beside the point.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
versipellis
Aug. 16th, 2013 02:47 pm (UTC)
Woah... the way this introduces the violence is so well-done - horrific, but very effective.
ursula_lear
Aug. 16th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
Wow! Powerful poem.

Irrelevant question is irrelevant but is this based on a real event?
synergyisalie
Jan. 23rd, 2014 12:47 am (UTC)
I will look through my books tomorrow to see if she mentions anything about this poem. I know she had several poems referencing police brutality. Unfortunately due to the era hunting down a single act of police brutality against a black woman in boston might be difficult, but it might be worth checking police records from 1979 if you can access them.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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a poem some days

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