essentials

Alyssa Mahoney on Adrienne Rich

The first poem, "Trying to Talk with a Man, " occurs in a desert, a desert which is not only deprivation and sterility, the place where everything except the essentials has been discarded, but the place where bombs are tested. The "I" and the "You" have given up all the frivolities of their previous lives, "suicide notes" as well as "love-letters, " in order to undertake the risk of changing the desert; but it becomes clear that the "scenery" is already "condemned," that the bombs are not external threats but internal ones. The poet realizes that they are deceiving themselves, "talking of the danger / as if it were not ourselves / as if we were testing anything else."

Like the wreck, the desert is already in the past, beyond salvation though not beyond understanding.