This is how it feels to do something you are afraid of.
That they are afraid of.

            (Would it have been different at Fort Dix, beginning
             to feel the full volume of tears in you, the measure
             of all you have in you to shed, all you have held
             back from false pride, false indifference, false

             beginning to weep as you weep peeling onions, but
             endlessly, for the rest of time, tears of chemistry,
             tears of catalyst, tears of rage, tears for yourself,
             tears for the tortured men in the stockade and for
             their torturers

             tears of fear, of the child stepping into the adult
            field of force, the woman stepping into the male field
            of violence, tears of relief, that your body was here,
            you had done it, every last refusal was over)

Here in this house my tears are running wild
in this Vermont of india-madras-colored leaves, of cesspool-
       stricken brooks, of violence licking at old people and
and I am afraid
of the language in my head
I am alone, alone with language
and without meaning
coming back to something written years ago:
our words misunderstand us
wanting a word that will shed itself like a tear
onto the page
leaving its stain

Trying every key in the bunch to get the door even ajar
not knowing whether it's locked or simply jammed from long disuse
trying the keys over and over then throwing the bunch away
staring around for an axe
wondering if the world can be changed like this
if a life can be changed like this

It wasn't completeness I wanted
(the old ideas of a revolution that could be foretold, and once
       arrived at would give us ourselves and each other)
I stopped listening long ago to their descriptions
of the good society

The will to change begins in the body not in the mind
My politics is in my body, accruing and expanding with every
        act of resistance and each of my failures
Locked in the closet at 4 years old I beat the wall with my body
the act is in me still

No, not completeness:
but I needed a way of saying
(this is what they are afraid of)
that could deal with these fragments
I needed to touch you
with a hand, a body
but also with words
I need a language to hear myself with
to see myself in
a language like pigment released on the board
blood-black, sexual green, reds
veined with contradictions
bursting under pressure from the tube
staining the old grain of the wood
like sperm or tears
but this is not what I mean
these images are not what I mean
(I am afraid.)
I mean that I want you to answer me
when I speak badly
that I love you, that we are in danger
that she wants to have your child, that I want us to have mercy
    on each other
that I want to take her hand
that I see you changing
that it was change I loved in you
when I thought I loved completeness
that things I have said which in a few years will be forgotten
matter more to me than this or any poem
and I want you to listen
when I speak badly
not in poems but in tears
not my best but my worst
that these repetitions are beating their way
toward a place where we can no longer be together
where my body no longer will demonstrate outside your stockade
and wheeling through its blind tears will make for the open air
of another kind of action

(I am afraid.)
It's not the worst way to live.

                  --Adrienne Rich
Tear Gas
October 12, 1969: reports of the tear-gassing of demonstrators
protesting the treatment of G.I. prisoners in the stockade at
Fort Dix, New Jersey)
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