Our Whole Life

The New Republic

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MAY 2, 1970

Our Whole Life

Our whole life a translation
the permissible fibs

and now a knot of lies
eating at itself to get undone

Words bitten thru words

meanings burnt-off like paint
under the blowtorch

All those dead letters
rendered into the oppressor's language

Trying to tell the doctor where it hurts

like the Algerian
who has walked from his village, burning

his whole body a cloud of pain
and there are no words for this

except himself

Adrienne Rich is an American poet. This poem appeared in the May 2, 1970 issue of the magazine.

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