Sunday, December 28, 2014

The poetry of Marge Piercy: 'To be of Use'

"Writers are citizens like plumbers and doctors. We suffer the same consequences from the bad and dangerous choices of politicians who are bought and sold and who have ideas that would not be out of place in the Dark Ages – where they truly belong or during that dandy period when thousands of women were burned at the stake after being intensively tortured because of male fantasies and fears..... Climate change, the suppression and increasing poverty of those who do not own enough to count, the erosion of the middle class and the outspoken hatred of those in power for the poor, the ever-increasing power of multinational corporations, the turning of elections into a mixture of spectacle and auction, all are coming true at a far more rapid rate than I anticipated".  
Marge Piercy

To be of Use
Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Marge Piercy (b 1935) is an American activist and feminist poet and novelist who has written 15 novels, 1 play and 17 volumes of poems.  Her writings focus on feminist and political and social concerns and reflect a profound commitment to radical political and social change. 

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