To Be of Use (Poem by Marge Piercy)

To Be of Use (Poem by Marge Piercy)

To Be of Use (Poem by Marge Piercy)

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.

by Marge Piercy

To Be of Use (Poem by Marge Piercy)

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. Gillian Smith 4 years ago

    We once met a Shire horse called Harvester. Happy to greet visitors in his stable – head down, snuffling for treats in flattened hands. And then, he was asked to work. Taken out and hitched to a harrowing tool – which must have been hugely heavy – he strode down the field……. his tossing head and shaking mane said – ‘this is what I am supposed to do – and I love it’ ……
    A glorious memory of joy in usefulness.

    • Author
      Polly Castor 4 years ago


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