Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

In a world that often defines people by what they do for a living being unemployed has been a humbling and eye-opening experience. After 25 years of growing a career that brought pride and challenge, the job layoff this summer felt like a heartless punch in the gut. 
Being a free agent can’t last forever but I choose to embrace it. My roles have never been so varied: babysitter, writer, book seller, editor, lawn mower, and more. Yet I’d trade nothing to have the time and ability to help my Mom when she broke her femur earlier in the summer. It takes a lot for my fiercely independent mother to need or ask for help. But the wicked surgery and the long and painful recovery process perhaps humbled her in a way similar to my layoff. We both have to count on others right now. The ability to give back to my Mom--the person who has devoted her every being to her family--has been one of the most precious experiences of my life. 
Today she faces a second surgery on her femur that will take her recovery process back to where she started. It’s serious stuff and all I can hope is that she realizes that she has a daughter that just needs to be of use. 
To Be of Use
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.


  1. Very touching post! I wish your mom a successful surgery and you both all the very best for the future. It is wonderful when one has a great mom. I have been blessed to have one. Take care.

  2. Great insight! Loved reading it today. I'll be thinking of your mom today, also. You rock!

  3. Praying for your Mom. Great blog. Being needed is among the top ten things that enrich our lives, right up there with air! Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Work produces results that serve. The pride in providing is unavailable in liesure. Cheers to those who answer the call. Genie will give all she has and get what she needs. It is always so with her. God is with her. So are you. Nice team.