Friday, August 22, 2014

TO BE OF USE by Marge Piercy

Instead of the usual dream story, I'd like to share my favorite poem 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 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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


As with many other musings, adjusting to my older self stayed with me, regularly playing out in my dreams--in volumes.

This was the big adjustment: at 52, I decided to stop coloring my hair. After months of vacillating, I finally did it. Then, nearly every day forward, I'd change my mind and want to color it again. Even my 80-year-old father looked at me as if I'd lost my senses, chiding me for choosing to look old. (This is the same guy who, instead of showing his Medicare card to get a senior discount at an area golf course, elected to keep his age a secret and pay full-price.) And though insecure with my choice, contrariness won out and gray I stayed.

My father wasn't the only critic. Some, after surveying the top of my head, just didn't say anything. Others were not so circumspect and gave their opinions freely. During the transition from dark to gray, a non-descript color emerged, prompting a co-worker to exclaim, "Of all the colors to choose from, why pick ugly?" Because I was so unsure myself, my antennae continuously scanned, picking up all hair-related references. When in my "just color it" phase, I'd try to justify it to myself by pointing out that my hair, with its absence of pigment and texture, was now like cotton candy.

As I mourned my younger self, I cranked out copious dreams, like this one:

I am riding in a car with the actor, Paul Newman. We are approaching a bridge. As we drive, I look over at the handsome Newman and think, Oh, I look so old. Then as we get closer, the actress (they were called actresses then), Natalie Wood appears on the pedestrian walkway. My, she looks so lovely. Slim and curvaceous in a light-colored sheath dress, she waves to me. I say, "Oh, I think I'll color my hair," as if that will make me young again.

Well, there I was approaching the bridge taking me from younger to older. Riding along with two former paradigms of our youth-centered culture, I felt anxious after having chosen not to fight the inevitable. And, more importantly, I was adjusting to a new, older self. This accommodation would continue to play out in future dreams as I became more familiar with the changes of being older.