Poem: An Atlas of the Difficult World

Here is a map of our country:
here is the Sea of Indifference, glazed with salt
This is the haunted river flowing from brow to groin
we dare not taste its water
This is the desert where missiles are planted like corms
This is the breadbasket of foreclosed farms
This is the birthplace of the rockabilly boy
This is the cemetery of the poor
who died for democracy   This is a battlefield
from a nineteenth-century war the shrine is famous
This is the sea-town of myth and story   when the fishing fleets
went bankrupt    here is where the jobs were    on the pier
processing the frozen fishsticks    hourly wages and no shares
These are other battlefields   Centralia    Detroit
here are the forests primeval   the copper   the silver lodes
These are the suburbs of acquiescence   silence rising fumelike
from the streets
This is the capital of money and dolor whose spires
flare up through air inversions whose bridges are crumbling
whose children are drifting blind alleys pent
between coiled rolls of razor wire
I promised to show you a map you say but this is a mural
then yes let it be   these are small distinctions
where do we see it from is the question

From An Atlas of the Difficult World by Adrienne Rich. Excerpt also featured in the Prologue of David Harvey’s Justice, Nature & the Geography of Difference.