Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 37

We pray quite often to be used for something. We don't always know what we want to be used for, we just know we want to be useful. We think we have found that use with our little elder home, but on some of the rougher days, we are just not sure. There are not many things more crippling to the spirit than the thought that you might go through life and have it mean nothing in the end. We long to be useful to someone, anyone. Some of us long for greatness, some toil in obscurity. The husband and I are not looking for riches or fame, we are not interested in a life of leisure. We want to be used. We want to go to bed tired and happy.




To Be of Use


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 froward,
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
is 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.






8 comments:

amber said...

Kris, I absolutely love this poem. Particularly the last stanza about ancient vases and pots, things now in museums that used to be used for daily tasks. My husband is of this useful kind of person, and I am forever grateful for him (I myself tend to want to watch the clouds for a good while before commencing work, and I rarely do anything by jumping in head first).

Really a great poem, and it inspires me now to go get ready for the class I am taking today...

Beth said...

Kris. I truly appreciate your words and this poem. The common rhythm and especially this stanza:

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
is a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

I almost posted a poem by St. Teresa of Avila very close to the subject of your poem. Maybe next week. I think there is much that you and I share. Know my friend that you are being used especially in this common as mud work. Have a beautiful day!

Beth Hanna said...

So excellent, Kris! Some days when I've just about had ENOUGH of Obrero, I think, But this is going to be helpful and ENCOURAGING to someone far away, maybe even as far as Africa! And I keep pluggin'.

Molly Sabourin said...

Mmm. Wow. Yeah, that's a really, really great one. Like Amber, I, too, am a cloud starer and admire a great deal those who work hard, those who are proactive in serving others via seemingly menial labor. "We want to be used. We want to go to bed tired and happy." That is one of the many reasons why I'm grateful to God for bringing your family into my life. Thanks for this post and for your example!

love,
m

Marigold said...

I like this poem a lot. I'm trying not to have an identity crisis over not having Student of Literature as a handy niche any more, and so it was kind of reassuring and challenging at the same time to read this, which is all about the virtue of just getting on with the food and the fire. Like maybe I don't *have* to be that person I always thought I was going to be; maybe there can be hope, love, satisfaction, beauty in other forms of work which are "common as mud".

I guess it just makes you want to be one of those people who just jumps in! :)

Jennifer said...

"The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real."

Amen!
Thank you for this wonderful poem!

Jenny said...

Kris,

This poem is wonderful! I also loved your commentary before it..."We want to go to bed tired and happy," Yes! That is the right kind of tired, the kind of tired I want to be as well, at the end of the day and at the end of my life.

Jenny said...

Kris,

This poem is wonderful! I also loved your commentary before it..."We want to go to bed tired and happy," Yes! That is the right kind of tired, the kind of tired I want to be as well, at the end of the day and at the end of my life.