“For the Dead” — Adrienne Rich

RIP Adrienne Rich. “For the Dead”:

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

7 thoughts on ““For the Dead” — Adrienne Rich”

  1. its urgent please help me ……give me idea of her poem Apology……could you help….i am confused about that poem…..


    1. Hi, dear Muhsen ali. In my opinion, this poem is for her husband who committed suicide soon after they got divorced in 1970. And this poem was written in 1972.
      The poetess missed her husband so much that she dreamed of calling him. Actually he had already died. Therefore, the poetess put it in a literary way: “but you were sick and would not answer”.
      Such kind of call in her dream is certainly a “waste of love”. Then She compares her left-over energy (her later life maybe) to “the way water goes rushing down a hill/long after the rains have stopped.” Here Rains may also be a symbol of a woman’s (the poetess herself) tears, sorrow and mourning.
      Then she compared her left-over energy to the fire in the fireplace (or her own fire of life) from which she feels warmth and alive. The poetess just couldn’t leave the fire and go to sleep due to the missing for her husband. The red coals (or the drive for the poetess to live on) are burning to almost to an end, “flashing and dying”. Both the coals and the poetess were “sitting long after midnight”. It seems that the remains of the coals were her own ashes, and they look like the same as her husband’s, and mingled together—finally, they meet again in the Heaven!


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