“I don’t want to hear how he beat her after the earthquake,
tore up her writing, threw the kerosene
lantern into her face waiting
like an unbearable mirror of his own” (Rich 234).
Just in the first four lines of this poem, Rich says quite a lot regarding gender roles and her view of domestic violence. She begins with “I don’t want to hear”, then continues to tell the story of a rather gruesome scene in the third person (234). Given the tone of the piece and the background of Rich, I am led to believe that Rich is trying to convince the reader of the severity of domestic violence and how repetitive it truly is. Saying she does not want to hear about it is not exactly true, she just knows the story already because of how repetitive this behavior is. Additionally, Rich repeats this phrase “I don’t want to” throughout the entirety of the poem, drawing a parallel between her language and the repetition of the behaviors she doesn’t want to know about, or rather, already knows about (234).
The idea of such abuse following an earthquake paints a more realistic picture of an abuser. She chose a character who is triggered by what she calls an earthquake then takes his anger out in the form of violence. She uses this metaphorical earthquake to establish a trigger for these abusive episodes, which are typically followed by apologies and presents to make the victim stay.
Tearing up the victim’s writing is something that cuts much deeper than flesh. Rich makes this connection to show how domestic abuse robs one of their individual sense of self, such as the connection a writer has to their writings.
The “unbearable mirror of his own” leads me to believe that Rich wants the reader to realize that abusers typically have reasons for doing so, and abuse is systematic, be it taught through generations or what have you (234). In essence, I suppose what I feel these lines, as well as the poem in its entirety, is trying to do, is bring some light to specific systematic issues women face, including domestic violence, but I also feel that many of the metaphors made can be linked to other forms of oppression or oppression-linked violence, making this poem a link, in a sense, to bring women together to safely recollect their experiences.