To Be Of Use

Dateline: 7 March 2006

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.


JFC said...

Now we are officially certified New York State Trappers. Yee haw! We also tapped 25 maple trees in the woods behind our house.

Trappers and tappers ...

A good combination. Sounds kinda' like the Reformed Farmer to me. I guess its a sign of prejudice, but I would never have expected that 2 of my favorite people in the blogging world are New Yorkers!

Leslie said...

Nice poem. I especially like the part about the work of the world being common as mud.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for the nice words. Scott "Reformed Farmer" is a real trapper. I'm just a wanna be. Well, actually my sons are wanna be's and I'm encouraging them because I think trapping critters is a whole lot better than hanging out at the mall or playing video games!

As for New York, I have to say this is a really beautiful state. Unfortunately, we have to deal with that levithan city down in the bottom right hand corner. :-(