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





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. John+gregory 2 years ago

    Lovely poem. Just saw “Triangle of Sadness ”. This was a theme.

  2. Sherri 2 years ago

    Thanks Polly! ❤️

  3. Gillian 2 years ago

    A wee story: We visited a Shire Horse Sanctuary … Harvester in his stall, so tall we could barely reach to pat his neck. Quietly waiting, watching. Then a demonstration: Harvester left his stall, was hitched to some farming equipment …. head up, tail switching he struck out – so fast his companion – a long-legged individual – had to run to keep up. Our lasting memory: Harvester, being himself!!
    Thank you for the reminder, Polly x

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