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Aunt Jennifer's Tigers -- Adrienne Rich

Guest poem sent in by Teresa D. Gunnell
(Poem #674) Aunt Jennifer's Tigers
 Aunt Jennifer's tigers prance across a screen,
 Bright topaz denizens of a world of green.
 They do not fear the men beneath the tree;
 They pace in sleek chivalric certainty.

 Aunt Jennifer's fingers fluttering through her wool
 Find even the ivory needle hard to pull.
 The massive weight of Uncle's wedding band
 Sits heavily upon Aunt Jennifer's hand.

 When Aunt is dead, her terrified hands will lie
 Still ringed with ordeals she was mastered by.
 The tigers in the panel that she made
 Will go on prancing, proud and unafraid.
-- Adrienne Rich
           (1951)

This poem has been an echo in my mind since I first read it, largely, I
think, because it reminds me of so many women I watched while growing up in
rural Missouri.  Rich is an amazing poet, her work is laden with meaning and
lovely language ("Bright topaz denizens of a world of green. / They do not
fear the men beneath the tree; / They pace in sleek chivalric certainty).
To me the most pivotal aspect of this poem is the image of a wife, beaten by
marriage and conquered by the weight of her wedding ring.  While not too
overt a feminist chant, it still has a moment of hope, because although Aunt
Jennifer was locked in her world, her tigers aren't.  There is a shaft of
light in this poem - something magical and tangible that remains.

-Tess

Links:

 A biography of Rich:
   http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/litlinks/poetry/rich.htm

 There's an extensive collection of links at
   http://www.nt1.nagasaki-gaigo.ac.jp/ishikawa/amlit/r/rich21.htm

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