Adrienne Rich is a feminist poet alongside being a nature enthusiast. She uses various metaphors to write about the suffocation faced by women and nature. This poem can be seen as an example of eco-feminism poetry, as it examines the connection between women and nature. They are exploited and suppressed to the point where they struggle to break out and gain freedom.
In the modern era, man aims to build tall buildings and skyscrapers everywhere around. In ancient days, people were self-sufficient and lived a carefree life. But today, man has become ambitious and materialistic. Forests and vegetation areas are completely destroyed to make it into a living space.
Rich paints a scenario with a building space that has been built by removing all the flora and fauna present there. With more population, more people require a habitat, and the world appears cramped. The main objective of trees is to provide oxygen and take in co2. But people seem to think that it is a decorative piece of beauty. The poet talks about the artificial flowers that adorn the people's houses. It is never equal to the original. She says that the trees have had enough and that they have decided to move out of the confines of the four walls to where they originally belong. They are moving into the forests that have escaped human hands.
Birds in trees
The forest had been empty all these days without the trees. And since there were no trees, the birds could not find a place to lay their nest. The habitat of fellow creatures was destroyed. Forest is home to all kinds of flora and fauna. When man destroyed it for selfish reasons, even tiny organisms like insects did not have a place to hide. They usually hide in small holes in tree barks. The sun is personified as having feet as the trees do not give any shadow from its scorching heat. But Rich assures us that this forest would be filled with trees in the morning as they have already started marching towards their original habitat.
Adrienne Rich talks about how the artificial trees that have the only benefit of being a showpiece are of no use to anyone around it. So they have all started coming out and moving toward where they belong. But inside the confined spaces of the house, they do not have space to move or live. So they decide that they have had enough and decide to leave. But it is not a simple process. So they have to work overnight to prepare for the hectic journey.
They have been embedded so hard in the soil in the house that it is difficult to uproot them. The first step to getting out is understanding that one is in trouble. Only when one acknowledges their difficulties they come up with a plan to overcome them. The trees have had a strong foundation in the cracks of the house as they have been there for years together. They are kept mostly in the verandah to attract the people who pass by. So they disengage from the verandah floors slowly and try to creep forward. The poet also talks about the leaves of the tree straining toward the glass. The reference to glass here makes us understand that the trees have been kept in a greenhouse. A greenhouse is a structure with walls and roof made chiefly of transparent material, such as glass, in which plants requiring regulated climatic conditions are grown. People mostly have greenhouses to grow decorative and seasonal trees.
The greenhouse is an enclosed space, and trees are used to grow in open spaces. It is very similar to a man held captive inside a small box. He might find it cramped and suffocating. His hands and legs might become stiff when held in the same position. Similarly, the trees also have stiff twigs due to the exertion of pressure on them. They are not allowed to grow beyond a height. Tree boughs are supposed to look good with an arc. But now they are cramped and shuffled inside the house. The poet gives a beautiful metaphor as she says the trees trying to come out of the house are similar to the patients who are newly discharged from the hospital. They look dazed and out of place, just like patients moving out of clinic doors.
The poet, being a very eco-centric person, does not advocate trapping trees inside enclosed spaces. It appears that, like the trees, she also prefers open spaces. She exhibits the feeling of being trapped in a closed sphere. All over the world, it is not only trees that are exploited, it is also women. Rich being vocal about the abuse and domination happening around the world against nature and women seems to emphasise that we need to take an action plan.
Rich is also staying indoors, just like the trees. The trees try to get out of their confined spaces by extending their roots longer into outer space. They try their best to somehow see and expose themselves to the world outside. Similarly, Rich does her best to have a glimpse and take a breath of freedom by opening the doors of her verandah. The little space and air that comes into her house through the door is her tiny experience of freedom. She does not sit there idle, rather she sits there writing letters. Letters are also her connection to the outer world. People write letters as a means to express themselves. The readers do not know to whom the letters are addressed, but it is evident that she feels it to be a liberating experience. But she says she does not mention the departure of the trees from the greenhouse in the letter. The reason might be that she wants the trees to move out of the house, as unlike her, at least they get to experience freedom.
She wrote letters
The readers also get to know that it is nighttime when the poet writes it. She can see a full moon, as the night is fresh. The night is also welcoming the trees' departure from the house. She also says that the sky is open, giving us a picture of a roofless house, where the sky is vast with the moon shining brightly. She says that the trace of trees can still be there even after them leaving gradually. Their presence is experienced with the smell of leaves and lichens. She says that the smell appears more like a voice in the rooms, indicating that the trees have finally found a voice to gain their freedom.
Lichen on a tree
Adrienne Rich has compared the existence of women with the existence of trees in nature in the poem. When a woman feels trapped, she longs to get out of the constant chatter. When one is experiencing pain, there is a constant restlessness in the head. Peace is also accompanied by silence and calmness. People always look for serenity in life. But it isn't easy to obtain this state when one is in captivation.
Rich says that her head is full of whispers. These whispers could be that of her ancestors, who were also women in captivation. They could be voices asking her to avenge and establish a life of her own. She is restless, just like the trees. They could be voices of doubt and disbelief as to whether they can ever liberate themselves. But she says that she could finally be relieved by the next day of all the voices and chatter in her head. Tomorrow will be silent as the trees will all have managed to get out of their enclosed spaces by then. It is with conviction that Rich quotes this. She also engages with the readers and asks them to stop, pause and listen. She asks them to listen to the change as they are arriving after a long time.
Rich also says that the glass is finally breaking. This means that the trees are finally growing bigger than their oppressors. This is very similar to women breaking the glass ceiling that stops them from growing big. Also, since they have been oppressed so far, they are not making a steady rise and movement, rather it is a slow one with them stumbling. But as soon as they get out, the wind rushes to meet them, making the leaves rustle. The moon appears as though it is broken as the tall trees cover it. It appears as if the moon is in pieces and is sitting at the top of the tall oak trees.
Moon appears spread on the trees