Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Life Is A Picnic, or ....

I've been neglecting Poetry Thursday for too long so to reprimand myself, and also because it's 'back to school' week and that always makes me feel industrious, here's To be of use by Marge Piercy from Circles on the Water. (oh ps. hopefully everyone will know Marge Piercy but if not, please look her up. She's a FAB writer - her strange novel Woman on the Edge of Time is probably one of the books that has made the most impression on me ever, as writer, woman, etc etc. In fact I'm persuading myelf to read it again ...)

To be of use

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 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.


Jan Bengree said...

This is a lovely poem; I haven't met it before. It's strong rythmic timeless..reminds me more than a little of Mary Oliver's " Wild geese" ??
I enjoy your blogs Sarah Thanks!

Sarah said...

Thanks Jan. Yes, you're right about Mary Oliver - I hadn't thought about that.

Patry Francis said...

What a great poem--and Piercy is so prolific; she obviously lives her work ethic.