The Work of the World is Common as Mud

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.

Marge Piercy

4 comments:

Beany said...

That is a beautiful poem. I could say the same thing about what I want as well. Thank you for introducing me to Marge Piercy.

katecontinued said...

You will no doubt enjoy her novels and other books as well. It has been years since I have read her, but the good things 'stick'.

Rosa said...

I still remember how we passed around a battered paperback copy of Vida when I was in college, every woman I knew read it.

And then a year or two ago I read Dance the Eagle to Sleep and now whenever I'm depressed I can think, at least we're not headed for *that* future.

katecontinued said...

I read Piercy in '79 in a Women in Literature course. I believe we read Small Changes, though I don't remember the story. I also think I read Woman on the Edge of Time, but have forgotten it too. I am slowly working towards reading novels again by listening to books. I am needing to wean myself off nonfiction and to let myself be carried into fiction. And, just changing the daily habits. I haven't succeeded in the last 2 years *headdesk* though I still know I will one day be reading novels again.