Saturday Poem

The Mirror

Is it in hopes
to find or lose myself
that I
fill up my table now
with Michelet and Motley?
to ‘know how it was’
or to forget how it is—
what else?
Split at the root, neither Gentile nor Jew,
Yankee nor Rebel, born
in the face of two ancient cults,
I’m a good reader of histories,
And you,
Morris Cohen, dear to me as a brother,
when you sit at night
tracing your way through your volumes
of Josephus, or any
of the cold Judaic chronicles,
do you find yourself there, a simpler
more eloquent Jew?
or do you read
to shut out the tick-tock of self,
the questions and their routine answers?

by Adrienne Rich
from Contemporary American Poetry
Penguin Books, 1966