ESSAY ON MARGE PIERCY
By Susan Brennan
POEMS BY MARGE PIERCY
Her rack of fancy shoes
My mother was vain about her feet,
small, always sore. I can see her
soaking her feet in some smelly
combination of household products.
She had few dresses but many shoes.
samples she called them, bought cheap
at some specialty place. And where
did she manage to go in them? Once
she had danced but no more. They
traded dinners with other couples;
mostly the guys worked at Westing-
house with my father in the shop.
But the women got dressed up. It
was for most of them their only
chance to put on make-up, high
heels, a dress smelling faintly of dry
cleaning, scent from a bottle kept
dusted on their vanity. Mille fleurs
my mother had all my childhood.
I think it was my older brother’s gift.
She loved to get fancy, reminding.
herself of long past happy days
when she could dab hope behind
her ears and onto her wrists
and go laughing into a night
that surely would romance her.
She still imagined then some man
would whisk her into a rainbow.
The goddess who can evaporate
Water, water –substance of which
I am mostly made. Always people
complain there is too much of you
or too little. We need you but take
you for granted like air or dirt. You
flow downhill, even as the Romans
understood, for miles with the slightest
inclination rushing over aqueducts.
I immerse in you each morning, some
times later after getting dirty, muddy,
sweaty, smelly. You make me clean,
sufficient to draw lips to my skin.
You freeze hard enough to walk on
hard enough to crush a house.
You turn into bullets of hail. You
entice us to glide bladed over you.
You look blue, you look green, grey,
brown, even black—but unless you
bear debris, a glassful is transparent
as glass. The mother of us all, we
are not precious to you but you
should be to us. Without you in us
we die. With you all around us, we
die. You are the goddess who gives
and takes with many hands reaching
up, reaching down, held straight out:
I don’t know why people worship old
men with beards instead of you.
Visions depend on us
When eyes are unbandaged
light thunders in. It hurts
but who cares? Sight is back.
Fear of blindness drowned.
When I wake in hotel rooms
at first I am shipwrecked, lost.
This is not my bed. No cats
sleep at my feet. All wrong.
When dawn creeps into strange
rooms, objects solidify out of
the dark. A bear becomes
a chair. A bureau resolves
from truck. A hanging robe
is no longer intruder. Eyes
report but the brain interprets
making monsters from drapes.
People see only skin instead
of a person and create stories,
threats. If it’s not a mirror
how frightening is the other.
Witnesses are unreliable. Prisons
swallow mistaken faces, bodies.
We see what we think we see.
Occasionally that’s harmless.
World that doesn’t lack an ending
World without end, they say
but everything comes to its ending
my life, my body, everyone I love
my cats, the weeping beech, hem-
lock, the maples and white fir
I planted decades ago.
This land the sea will take
back into itself. The rock
far down, the sun itself.
But we are hastening all
burning the world as we sit,
as we drive, as we eat.
After us, not the deluge
but the desert. Antropocene
bringing to dust not just
us but lions and tigers
polar bears, Monarchs,
warblers, right whales.
We must worship death
though we never look straight
into its sockets. Still we
court it so passionately
War is a constant. Waste,
greed, it’s Saturday night.
So much will die with us that
never lit a match, never built
a nuclear power plant or bomb,
invaded a country, never stored
hate in the dark cave of their
hearts like a sacred flame.