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Paula Becker To Clara Westhoff Analysis

Author: poem of Adrienne Rich Type: poem Views: 13

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The autumn feels slowed down,

summer still holds on here, even the light

seems to last longer than it should

or maybe I'm using it to the thin edge.

The moon rolls in the air. I didn't want this child.

You're the only one I've told.

I want a child maybe, someday, but not now.

Otto has a calm, complacent way

of following me with his eyes, as if to say

Soon you'll have your hands full!

And yes, I will; this child will be mine

not his, the failures, if I fail

will all be mine. We're not good, Clara,

at learning to prevent these things,

and once we have a child it is ours.

But lately I feel beyond Otto or anyone.

I know now the kind of work I have to do.

It takes such energy! I have the feeling I'm

moving somewhere, patiently, impatiently,

in my loneliness. I'm looking everywhere in nature

for new forms, old forms in new places,

the planes of an antique mouth, let's say, among the leaves.

I know and do not know

what I am searching for.

Remember those months in the studio together,

you up to your strong forearms in wet clay,

I trying to make something of the strange impressions

assailing me--the Japanese

flowers and birds on silk, the drunks

sheltering in the Louvre, that river-light,

those faces...Did we know exactly

why we were there? Paris unnerved you,

you found it too much, yet you went on

with your work...and later we met there again,

both married then, and I thought you and Rilke

both seemed unnerved. I felt a kind of joylessness

between you. Of course he and I

have had our difficulties. Maybe I was jealous

of him, to begin with, taking you from me,

maybe I married Otto to fill up

my loneliness for you.

Rainer, of course, knows more than Otto knows,

he believes in women. But he feeds on us,

like all of them. His whole life, his art

is protected by women. Which of us could say that?

Which of us, Clara, hasn't had to take that leap

out beyond our being women

to save our work? or is it to save ourselves?

Marriage is lonelier than solitude.

Do you know: I was dreaming I had died

giving birth to the child.

I couldn't paint or speak or even move.

My child--I think--survived me. But what was funny

in the dream was, Rainer had written my requiem--

a long, beautiful poem, and calling me his friend.

I was your friend

but in the dream you didn't say a word.

In the dream his poem was like a letter

to someone who has no right

to be there but must be treated gently, like a guest

who comes on the wrong day. Clara, why don't I dream of you?

That photo of the two of us--I have it still,

you and I looking hard into each other

and my painting behind us. How we used to work

side by side! And how I've worked since then

trying to create according to our plan

that we'd bring, against all odds, our full power

to every subject. Hold back nothing

because we were women. Clara, our strength still lies

in the things we used to talk about:

how life and death take one another's hands,

the struggle for truth, our old pledge against guilt.

And now I feel dawn and the coming day.

I love waking in my studio, seeing my pictures

come alive in the light. Sometimes I feel

it is myself that kicks inside me,

myself I must give suck to, love...

I wish we could have done this for each other

all our lives, but we can't...

They say a pregnant woman

dreams her own death. But life and death

take one another's hands. Clara, I feel so full

of work, the life I see ahead, and love

for you, who of all people

however badly I say this

will hear all I say and cannot say.


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