Adrienne Rich’s “After Twenty Years”

Adrienne Rich published “After Twenty Years” in 1971. A meditation on what it means for woman to be defined as mother, the poem also worries the fact that after 20 years a woman could be released from this definition. We discussed this poem on June 1, 2012. The podcast closes with Tori Amos’s cover of Stevie Nicks’ 1975 “Landslide.”

Read the poem…

After Twenty Years

Two women sit at a table by a window. Light breaks
unevenly on both of them.
Their talk is striking of sparks
which passers-by in the street observe
as a glitter in the glass of that window.
Two women in the prime of life.
Their babies are old enough to have babies.
Loneliness has been part of their story for twenty years,
the dark edge of the clever tongue,
the obscure underside of the imagination.
It is snow and thunder in the street.
While they speak the lightning flashes purple.
It is strange to be so many women,
eating and drinking at the same table,
those who bathed their children in the same basin
who kept their secrets from each other
walked the floors of their lives in separate rooms
and flow into history now as the woman of their time
living in the prime of life
as in a city where nothing is forbidden
and nothing permanent.


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