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by Adrienne Rich

Your footprints of light on sensitive paper

that typewriter you made famous

my footsteps following you up stair-

wells of scarred oak and shredded newsprint

these windowpanes smeared with stifled breaths

corridors of tile and jaundiced plaster

if this is where I must look for you

then this is where I’ll find you

From a streetlamp’s wet lozenge bent

on a curb plastered with newsprint

the headlines aiming straight at your eyes

to a room’s dark breath-smeared light

these footsteps I’m following you with

down tiles of a red corridor

if this is a way to find you

of course this is how I’ll find you.

Your negatives pegged to dry in a darkroom

rigged up over a bathtub’s lozenge

your footprints of light on sensitive paper

stacked curling under blackened panes

the always upstairs of your hideout

the stern exposure of your brows

— these footsteps I’m following you with

aren’t to arrest you

The bristling hairs of your eyeflash

that typewriter you made famous

your enormous will to arrest and frame

what was, what is, still liquid, flowing

your exposure of manifestos, your

lightbulb in a scarred ceiling

well if this is how I find you

Modotti so I find you

In the red wash of your darkroom

from your neighborhood of volcanoes

to the geranium nailed in a can

on the wall of your upstairs hideout

in the rush of breath a window

of revolution allowed you

on this jaundiced stair in this huge lashed eye


footsteps I’m following you with

Tina Modotti (1896 – 1942): Photographer, political activist, revolutionary. Her most significant artistic work was done in Mexico in the 1920s, including a study of the typewriter belonging to her lover, the Cuban revolutionary Julio Antonio Mella. Framed for his murder by the fascists in 1929, she was expelled from Mexico in 1930. After some years of political activity in Berlin, the Soviet Union and Spain, she returned incognito to Mexico where she died in 1942.

© 1996 by Adrienne Rich

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