Open-Air Museum

By Adrienne Rich

Ailanthus, goldenrod, scrapiron, what makes you flower?
What burns in the dump today?

Thick flames in a grey field, tended
By two men: one derelict ghost,
One clearly apter at nursing destruction,
Two priests in a grey field, tending the flames
Of stripped-off rockwool, split
Mattresses, a caved-in chickenhouse,
Mad Loy’s last stack of paintings, each a perfect black lozenge

Seen from a train, stopped
As by design, to bring us
Face to face with the flag of our true country:
Violet-yellow, black-violet,
Its heart sucked by slow fire
O my America
This then your desire?

by Adrienne Rich, 1964
From Collected Early Poems 1950-1970 (W.W. Norton)

Reproduced from the Jewish Culture News

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