A Ball is for Throwing, Adrienne Rich

Whilst studying for my PhD, I read a lot of Adriene Rich, as her work on gender and sexuality provided a useful critical context for my work on androgyny, particularly On Lies, Secrets and Silence. She also wrote an essay about Anne Bradstreet so I guess she was one of my feminist icons. I did study some of her poetry and writing on Sylvia Plath yesterday reminded me of Adrienne Rich’s work. I didn’t get a chance to post this last night as one of my children is having problems sleeping, which meant I had to go to bed earlier with her so that she could get to sleep, and needless to say nodded off myself! I love the imagery in this poem, its cheerful and reminds me of the importance of play, which is much needed on these dark, end of autumn days.

A Ball is for Throwing

See it, the beautiful ball
Poised in the toyshop window,
Rounder than sun or moon.
Is it red? is it blue? is it violet?
It is everything we desire,
And it does not exist at all.

Non-existent and beautiful? Quite.
In the rounding leap of our hands,
In the longing hush of air,
We know what that ball could be,
How its blues and reds could spin
To a headier violet.

Beautiful in the mind
Like a word we are waiting to hear,
That ball is construed, but lives
Only in flash of flight,
From the instant of release
To the catch in another’s hand.

And the toy withheld is the token
Of all who refrain from play –
The shopkeepers, the collectors
Like Queen Victoria,
In whose adorable doll’s house
Nothing was ever broken.

1957

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