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For Adrienne Rich
by Ed Bennett
"Art means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner table of the power which holds it hostage"
- Adrienne Rich
There are those who choose the cap and bells,
the ephemera of the doting cultured class
who smelt their gold and pin their medals
on the chosen ones with the lightest tread.
Art is a means to some fitting recognition,
to the consequence of measured words bereft
of teeth or the breath of human empathy.
Who will speak, then, from the margin
where the voiceless glean their daily bread
of censure and election year derision?
Who extends their hand to clandestine lovers
vilified by gavel and vestment institutions
who promise the dream but hold it meaningless?
They wait in the shadows for a prophet, an anointed one
or, at least, one with a streak of courage.
When they offered you the golden oak leaf crown
you chose instead the simple frock of your calling.
Your words were clear, resonant in the pillared halls
directly cast at the hearts of the elect:
"Truth and art are one; honor is not relative".
There will be no monuments to exalt you
except for the memory of that singular day
when politics was eschewed by a poet
and the voiceless spoke with tongues of fire.