That about says it all: Adrienne Rich sniffed my baby. She requested to sniff my baby. She did!
Elliot and I met her today at a reception for her prior to a reading at Northwestern. There'd been a Q & A with students that I'd been invited to, but I didn't quite want to bring Elliot (he would have distracted me, if not everybody else). So Elliot and I just showed up for food.
So, we were at the reception. I'd thrust Sir Elliot into the welcoming arms of one of my girlfriends and was shoveling food into my mouth--delicious baklava. The crowd had thinned down, and Elliot began to rumble so he was handed back to me just as he made a noise loud enough to draw attention to himself. Adrienne Rich, small and elegant and elderly, was holding court in a chair on the other side of the room. She perked up and said--Oh! A Baby!
So, friends, we went over to introduce ourselves. I introduced Elliot to ADRIENNE RICH. She praised him, and I offered to let her hold him. She said she couldn't because her hands were too weak; she made a small eloquent gesture to indicate their arthritis. "But," she said, "I would love to sniff him. I love the smell of baby's heads...." And I held Elliot out like an offering, and she beathed him in. She squeezed his toes. She smiled. "Ah, yes," she said.
As my friend Joanne said, it was like being blessed by the pope.
And I agree. But how much better to receive a blessing from a small and gentle and steadfast woman, a radical lesbian feminist poet. It was so sweet to have that kind of benediction for my little boychild son.
In A Classroom
by Adrienne Rich
Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me. For that I came.