Poems from “Wild” — Emily Dickinson and Adrienne Rich

Posted on December 5, 2014 at 8:00 am

In “Wild,” Cheryl Strayed begins her 1100-mile hike with a quote from Emily Dickinson. Here is the poem.

If your Nerve, deny you—

If your Nerve, deny you—
Go above your Nerve—
He can lean against the Grave,
If he fear to swerve—

That’s a steady posture—
Never any bend
Held of those Brass arms—
Best Giant made—

If your Soul seesaw—
Lift the Flesh door—
The Poltroon wants Oxygen—
Nothing more –

And she also quotes Power by Adrienne Rich:

Living in the earth-deposits of our history
Today a backhoe divulged out of a crumbling flank of earth
one bottle amber perfect a hundred-year-old
cure for fever or melancholy a tonic
for living on this earth in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Curie
she must have known she suffered from radiation sickness
her body bombarded for years by the element
she had purified
It seems she denied to the end
the source of the cataracts on her eyes
the cracked and suppurating skin of her finger-ends
till she could no longer hold a test-tube or a pencil
She died a famous woman denying
her wounds
her wounds came from the same source as her power

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