by 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 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.
"I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing. (Though I may write about cabmen. That’s no matter.) But warm, eager, living life -- to be rooted in life -- to learn, to desire, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for." - Katherine Mansfield
Pictures: Above right, ''Jo writing in the Attic'' (from Little Women) by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), ''The Letter'' by Patricia O'Brien, ''Leonard Woolf at work at Hogarth Press'' by Vanessa Bell (1979-1961), and ''Dame Laura Knight Sketching'' by Harold Knight (1874-1961). Above left, "Self-portrait with Apron and Brushes" by Polish painter Anna Bilińska (1857-1893). Words: Marge Piercy's poem comes from her collection Circles on the Water (Knopf, 1982). All rights reserved by the writer and artists or their estates.