To Be Of Use

Original Dateline: 7 March 2006
Repost Dateline: 2 August 2016

I'd like to share with you the following poem by Marge Piercy. It is in the book, Circles on The Water. I love the agrarian analogies. I appreciate the words that celebrate the value of hard, diligent work.... "work that is real."

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 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.


Bill said...

This is excellent. Thanks for sharing.

A person cries for work that is real. That rings true to me. And I worry that the industrial system seems determined to make "real" work obsolete. A world without good work to do will be an impoverished world.

deborah harvey said...

a world without real work and families without fathers produce criminals.
the young male needs to accomplish and in many places accomplishment is crime.
these criminals will never live in peace nor have any real satisfaction.
it is a terrible shame.
adam was to tend the garden.
that is in our blood but the young who are born unattached to nature are empty.

James Johnson said...

Elizabeth L. Johnson said,

My, my, Bill and Deborah!! Well said. Thanks, Herrick, for this soul-feeding article. More, please.

Dan Grubbs said...

I've recently written on the nature of work and feel much like those who have already commented. Thank you for sharing the poem, Herrick. I'm a fan of good agrarian verse which Berry seems to be the bar set for comparison. As a hack myself, I dream of commanding words as Berry does. Marge "ain't all bad" herself!

For those who might care, here is my blog post about the value of work:

In Him,

kymber said...

Herrick - thank you for sharing this poem - it is ringing so true in my ears.

and can someone please explain why i always want to put a +1,000 on every one of deborah harvey's comments left on our blog and others? the woman is a genious!

but Herrick - you are a genious too and we have learned much from you. and thank you, very humbly, for all that we have learned.

your friend,