to be of use

I've been sailing toward the end of the year, riding on the page proofs of the good ship Revolution. We went to Charleston the day after Christmas, as usual. I put most photos of the holidays and the trip to Charleston on Instagram, as I'm experimenting with that platform, so I'll direct you there for photos today. I want to leave you with a poem by Marge Piercy called "To be of use" --

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.
*     *     *
That's my hope for 2014. For work that is real -- the work of the world that is common as mud and that must be done. I want to do good work in the world. I want to be peaceful. I want to learn to love.
Happy new year. Love and light to all.


  1. That is a noble 2014 goal and I share it. Also, I love that poem. Marge Piercy is one of those writers -- like Ivan Doig in his Rascal Fair trilogy -- who really knows how to write about the physicality of work. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Thanks, Linda. Yes to the physicality of work, and to those who write about it. My best to you. So glad we finally met!


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