February 2000

Marge Piercy


Marge Piercy (Debi Milligan) Marge Piercy is the author of 15 novels, most recently Three Women published in October by Morrow; 14 books of poetry, most recently The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme (Knopf), Early Grrrl: The Early Poems of Marge Piercy (Leapfrog Press), and What are Big Girls Made of? (Knopf). 

Oh, Veblen, this is much better    Click to hear in real audio

Years and modes ago, in the heyday
of communes, I was in Detroit
to give a reading, a benefit.

I was put up in Palmer Park, which in
my threadbare youth was where people
with money lived, when people

with money still lived in Detroit.
It was a women’s commune and my
corner room had a black and white

marble bathroom, the tub big enough
for me and a lover, but I had none
with me, with a closet too large

for my entire wardrobe, a built in
vanity fit for Jean Harlow, where
I gazed at my face haggard from long

on the road. The house had belonged
to vacuum cleaner money, but they had
swept themselves out to Grosse Pointe

long ago. The wine cellar was bigger
than my living room at home; the kitchen,
the size of a corner grocery.

The little kids rode tricycles round
and round the hardwood ground floor
rooms. This is the proper use for this

mansion, I thought, enough room
for families sharing food and housework,
sharing bills and the blooming of children.

The house bounced and rattled and sang
with games, and the butler’s pantry
stored roller skates, bikes and kites.



Old moon cradling the new moon    Click to hear in real audio

What we have known is fully formed
but fading, a chord no longer quite
audible but resonating in the bones.

What we will be together is just a sliver
of light, a whisper, a tone too high
to hear yet but alerting the nerves.

What we have been contains
what we will be, although it is new
as first milk from a swollen breast.

What we desire rides the night
like a storm of tiny feathers, blossoms
of ice and pinpricks of fire.

Where we will go is rooted in where
we have been, in each other’s arms
as if twinned in the womb, and now

the womb opens on a new beast
an elegant hybrid of cat and eagle,
a flower fully armed and fragrant

with the essences of could be, might
be, want to be, with the promise of birth
under the sign of the skinniest moon.



A kind of theft    Click to hear in real audio

It is the season of making vinegars,
tarragon, rosemary-orange, purple
basil, dill, chive blossom, cilantro:
aromatic, stoppered into bottles.

I take great handfuls and handfuls
of herbs, spendthrift, greedy,
and bruise them in a mortar.
I punish them for being.

Then I heat the various bought
vinegars, the cider, the wine
the rice, the plain and nasty,
and pour them over the beaten herbs.

The sour preserves them. The harsh
liquid surrounds and leaches
from the green stuff its ghostly
essence. For three weeks

I shake and turn. Then
I filter and discard the herbs,
throw out what was so fresh
I have extracted its soul.

I have turned it to garbage.
How often I do the same
to parts of myself, to adventures
and mishaps and terrors,

to the deaths of those dear,
to the pleasures of sleek
and sliding flesh, all the leaves
and flowers of my passing days.



I awake feathered    Click to hear in real audio

I awake covered in feathers.
I am iridescent. I gleam
in the milky dawn.

I shimmer like a rainbow
hanging in the air.
I raise my arm over my head

and the wing extends.
This morning I will take
flight, take it and use it.

Later perhaps I will moult,
dwindle into human
again, but my power

fills me now like music
loud and surging. I rise
over the house, the gardens.

I beat high into the crisp
limpid air, then float,
a kite no string controls.

It can’t last, but it shouldn’t
Pinacles are of the moment.
I belong here right now.



Quarrel in the berry patch    Click to hear in real audio

I gave you the cherries this year,
the mulberries, you gorgeous beasties
orange and lemon like the bells
of St. Clemons, wherever that is,
Baltimore dashing orioles.

Why do you curse and torment
me, picking black currants?
You can’t have everything.
The yellow female squats over
my head, threatening.

The male twitters and swoops.
Now the catbirds too mew
dire promises of revenge.
Okay, the black currants are mine,
but we’ll split the blueberries.

This is my land, I say, no
different than the boast of Mr.
orange chest from his hanging
nest in the weeping beech
and whose tree is it?

I planted it, I water it,
the squirrels fuck in it,
always somebody has a nest
as it plunges deep in the earth:
its owner, its lover, its end.



Marge Piercy: Poetry
Copyright 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 10The Cortland Review