Tuesday, October 10, 2023

"The Diamond Cutters" by Adrienne Rich


However legendary,
The stone is still a stone,
Though it had once resisted
The weight of Africa,
The hammer-blows of time
That wear to bits of rubble
The mountain and the pebble—
But not this coldest one.

Now, you intelligence
So late dredged up from dark
Upon whose smoky walls
Bison took fumbling form
Or flint was edged on flint —
Now, careful arriviste,
Delineate at will
Incisions in the ice.

Be serious, because
The stone may have contempt
For too-familiar hands,
And because all you do
Loses or gains by this:
Respect the adversary,
Meet it with tools refined,
And thereby set your price.

Be hard of heart, because
The stone must leave your hand.
Although you liberate
Pure and expensive fires
Fit to enamor Shebas,
Keep your desire apart.
Love only what you do,
And not what you have done.

Be proud, when you have set
The final spoke of flame
In that prismatic wheel,
And nothing’s left this day
Except to see the sun
Shine on the false and the true,
And know that Africa
Will yield you more to do.

Source of the text – Adrienne Rich, Collected Poems: 1950-2012. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2016, pages 104-105.

TJB: Fearful symmetry. In short-lined, lightly rhymed octets, with cool/warm imagery, the poem sees both object & maker; diamond as poem or diamond as self.

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