Adrienne Rich – An Honourable Human Relationship

Adrienne Rich, the American poet, essayist and feminist activist wrote prolifically about honest, alive and meaningful conversations encompassing love, loss and integrity. The following three quotes inspire an enlivening radical honesty to be a welcome mainstay in an ‘honourable human relationship’.

Each of these have been used as part of a wedding vow or as reading within the ceremony.

“An honourable human relationship—that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love”—is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other. It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation. It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity. It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

Adrienne Rich – On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose

two women together is a work
nothing in civilisation has made simple,
two people together is a work heroic in its ordinariness,
the slow-picked, halting traverse of a pitch
where the fiercest attention becomes routine
–look at the faces of those who have chosen it.

Excerpt from XIX – Adrienne Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems

Sleeping, turning in turn like planets
rotating in their midnight meadow:
a touch is enough to let us know
we’re not alone in the universe, even in sleep:
the dream-ghosts of two worlds
walking their ghost-towns, almost address each other.
I’ve wakened to your muttered words
spoken light- or dark-years away
as if my own voice had spoken.
But we have different voices, even in sleep, and our bodies, so
alike, are yet so different
and the past echoing through our bloodstreams
is freighted with different language, different meanings—
though in any chronicle of the world we share
it could be written with new meaning
we were two lovers of one gender,
we were two women of one generation.

XII – Adrienne Rich, Twenty-One Love Poems

Adrienne Rich