Damagaed Body

“The problem, unstated till now, is ho/to live in a damaged body/in a world where pain is meant to be gagged/uncured un-grieved-over” (208).


We are damaged, however, we do exist. Rich is at odds. The “damaged body” is the women’s body that has been trampled and silenced by male hegemony and that pain has been “unstated.” Over time, as Rich wrote this poem over the course of two years (1983-1985), the woman’s voice is being heard – “till now”- voicing and acknowledging that the woman’s body is “damaged” and that the degradation done to the woman’s body happens in a world that reinforces that degradation. Therefore this question that Rich poses is inevitable because it has taken an immense amount of time – “until now” she says – to voice the pain that has festered within the bodies of women for so long. The bodies are already damaged, yet existing. I am making the claim that the reality of this existence will always maintain a stasis of pain, however, when Rich says, “meant to be” she implies that our world has the ability to change. That a women’s body does not have to be “gagged / uncured ungrieved-over” but that Rich uses these words to suggest that the “un” can be expunged. Although the history of a woman’s body has been and will be damaged, we can conceivably alter our world to where those bodies can grieve, and can heal and be cured. I want to bring in conversation of Audre Lordes’ excerpt from “Growing up Gay/Growing up Lesbian.” Lorde discuses growing up in NYC while being a black lesbian, and she says, “What I didn’t realize was how much harder I had to try merely to stay alive, or rather, stay human.” Lorde is the epitome of what Rich is adhering to, as her identity has been so neglected, harassed, and abused, that she is now trying to “stay alive” through keeping her body alive, and existing.

2 thoughts on “Damagaed Body”

  1. I really liked your analysis of these lines and the connections you made with Audre Lorde. I agree with the connection you made with damaged bodies and how Audre Lorde was trying to “stay alive” because her body was damaged and silenced and how hard that is. I connected this to the poem “Fox” because Adrienne Rich also brings up similar statements about the body when she says, “And the truth of briars she had to have run through I craved to feel on her pelt if my hands could even slide past or her body slide between them sharp truth distressing surfaces of fur lacerated skin calling legend to account a vixen’s courage in vixen terms.” Here Rich talks about the pain women experience throughout their lives and the damage that happens to their body. Rich longs to see a damaged body of another woman because that will validate the pain she feels and they can connect over their pain.

  2. I appreciated your connections between Audre Lorde and Rich for these lines specifically. I too thought that Rich was talking about someone like Lorde when she talks about a “damaged body”. I also enjoyed your post because you pointed out that while Rich is grappling with the ways these marginalized identities can produce difficult lived experiences, she also thinks about ways that these systems can be changed and improved.

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