It’s an old-fashioned, an outrageous thing
To believe one has a “destiny”

a thought often peculiar to those
who possess privilege –

but there is something else: the faith
of those despised and endangered

that they are not merely the sum
of damages done to them:

have kept beyond violence the knowledge
arranged in patterns like kente-cloth

unexpected as in batik
recurrent as bitter herbs and unleavened bread

of being a connective link
in a long, continuous way

of ordering hunger, weather, death, desire
and the nearness of chaos.


The faithful, drudging child
the child at the oak desk whose penmanship
hard work, style will win her prizes
becomes the woman with a mission, not to win prizes
but to change the laws of history.
How she gets this mission
is not clear, how the boundaries of perfection
explode, leaving her cheekbone grey with smoke
a piece of her hair singed off, her shirt
spattered with earth . . . Say that she grew up in a house
with talk of books, ideal societies–
she is gripped by a blue, a foreign air,
a desert absolute:    dragged by the roots of her own will
into another scene of choices.


I have wished I could rest among the beautiful and common
weeds I can name, both here and in other tracts of the
globe.   But there is no finite knowing, no such rest.   Innocent
birds, deserts, morning-glories, point to choices.  leading away
from the familiar.    When I speak of an end to suffering I don’t
mean anesthesia.   I mean knowing the world, and my place in
it, not in order to stare with bitterness or detachment, but as a
powerful and womanly series of choices:   and here I write the
words, in their fullness:
powerful;   womanly.

August 1981-
August 1982


.adrienne rich.