Work That is Real

I am a person of strong feelings, and I find it difficult to explain them. If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you’ll recall me mentioning that I’d like to live on my own little farm, with a few animals, as sustainably as possible, preferably a mile or so from my nearest neighbor. I’d like to have extra produce to sell at the end of my lane with an ‘honor box’. I’d like to have wool straight from my own sheep for spinning into yarn. I’d like to keep bees, and give jars of honey as gifts to friends and neighbors. I’d like to eat what I grow. I really, really want that, but it’s hard for me to say why. It’s just in my bones.


I’ve read Marge Piercy’s poem, To Be of Use, several times before. Today when I read it though, my heart squeezed and I thought to myself, yes. Absolutely, yes. This is why I want what I want. She puts into words what I have never been able to.

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 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.

‘Real work’ feels far away right now. It’s on the horizon, but I have to squint to see it, and I have to have patience. It’s not that my time spent volunteering and practicing social work aren’t real and important, because they absolutely are. But sitting in my air condition home, in a middle class neighborhood in the county’s 4th largest city, with neighbors on all sides, my bones are calling out for something else.

So I’ll make myself another cup of tea and read up, until my time comes.


4 thoughts on “Work That is Real

  1. Well there is an empty farm on the road right above us. Perhaps you can work on that idea. We will be at the wedding – how dare you think otherwise?

    • Well we’ll probably have to be here for at least 3 years for Ad’s job training. And I figured you were coming, I just needed to double check! How dare you not return your RSVP on time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s