Friday, May 9, 2008

To Be of Use by 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.


The Monkeyhippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Monkeyhippy said...

One of my very favorite poems! Thanks also for posting a comment on my blog - indeed the M&J wedding was beyond wonderful. I also enjoyed finally meeting Stefan, about whom I'd heard many good things. I know Magic Foot quite well - I sing in Colman's Well with Brendan (hi,I'm Rachel). I'm really looking forward to going to Ithaca with them at the end of May.

Do you know this MP poem (which will now make this the longest comment post ever)?...

Report of the Fourteenth
Subcommittee on Convening a
Discussion Group
by Marge Piercy

This is how things begin to tilt into change, how coalitions are knit from strands of hair,
of barbed wire, twine, knitting wool and gut, how people ease into action arguing each inch, but the tedium of it is watching granite erode.

Let us meet to debate meeting, the day, the time, the length. Let us discuss whether we will sit or stand or hang from the ceiling or take it lying down. Let us argue about the chair and the table and
the chairperson and the motion to table the chair.

In the room fog gathers under the ceiling and thickens in every brain. Let us form committees spawning subcommittees all laying little moldy eggs of reports.
Under the Grey fluorescent sun they will crack to hatch scuttling lizards of more committees.

The Pliocene gathers momentum and fades. The earth tilts on its axis. More and more snows fall each winter and less melt each spring. A new ice age is pressing the glaciers forward over the floor. We watch the wall of ice advance.

We are evolving into molluscs, barnacles clinging to wood and plastic, metal and smoke
while the stale and flotsam-laden tide of rhetoric inches up the shingles and dawdles back. This is true virtue: to sit here and stay awake,

to listen, to argue, to wade on through the muck, wrestling to some momentary small agreement
like a pinhead pearl prized from a dragon-oyster. I believe in this democracy as I believe there is blood in my veins, but oh, oh, in me lurks a tyrant with a double-bladed ax who longs

to swing it wide and shining, who longs to stand and shriek, You Shall Do as I Say, pig-bastards. No more committees but only picnics and orgies and dances. I have spoken. So be it forevermore.