Knopf brought out Marge Piercy's 18th poetry book The Hunger Moon: New &
selected poems 1980-2010 last spring, scheduled for paperback this spring.
Knopf has The Crooked Inheritance, The Moon is Always Female, What Are Big
Girls Made Of and several others in paperback. Piercy has published 17 novels,
recently Sex Wars; 2 early novels. Dance the Eagle to Sleep and Vida have just
been republished with new introductions by PM Press. Her memoir is Sleeping
With Cats, Harper Perennial. Her work has been translated into 19 languages.
She gives numerous readings, workshops and occasion speeches internationally.
Action isn't everything
To need to stay busy
is to miss the scent of balsam
on the morning air. To miss
the small sound of a thrasher
kicking up leaves beneath bushes.
So many of the minor pleasures
come to us when we spread
silence around us like a silken
mirror and allow ourselves
to subside into stillness and wait.
Every moment does not need
to be stuffed. Silence is a fullness
not a vacuum. One advantage
of age is to be able to learn
the secrets of an empty room.
Is it empty? Light furnishes it.
The walls, the floor give little
intimate noises as they enclose.
The windows are supplied with trees
tall sky and a crossing crow.
Caught in an electronic spider
web that connects countries, eras,
people we befriend whom we will
never meet, time carries us forward
over rocks in a white splashing whir.
Cats know all about stillness. When
they want to leap, they bend
gravity. When they want to rest
they shut down into perfect recep-
tivity, paws folded like Buddhas.
Doing nothing is not that. It
is receiving, it is opening, it
is a turning within and a turning
beyond at once. Let the tide
of silence close over your head.
I know so little
I am someone who likes to know
what road I am traveling on. When
I have been lost, I have found nothing
but a waste of wondering.
Some say let go and choose nothing
but chance, but the dice have never
loved me. Gambling to me is letting
go what I need in vain hopes
of getting what I don't. I find
enough unknowable in the blurring
of mirrors, in the secret worms
that burrow through my flesh
in avalanches that crush friends
who never created them. Even
a tree can fall one day on you
not out of spite but quiet rot.
No, what I can know I grasp
in my hands like a stunned bird
feeling the little heart bang
against the fragile bones
never forgetting how much
greater is the dragon crouching
on the edge of all maps where
what we know fades quietly out.
The kitten from the shelter hasn't
learned her name Xena yet. But how
wonderful that leap: those nonmeows
humans utter mean something.
When I mention her name, Puck
turns his head and looks at her.
He has grasped that noises belong
to beings and objects and actions:
out, chicken, no, come, sit. How
does a creature without language
suddenly put that attachment to-
gether? Human babies preprogrammed
to stare at faces, still take a while.
They babble long before they speak.
Then there’s the long learning process
that words are not the thing,
that promises only shape air, that
cries of passion are nonnegotiable,
that we walk through our days
followed by biting swarms of lies.
Different voices, one sentence
I love you in one voice is an arrival
in another a curse. It can be a wall
imprisoning. Or a door opening
to who knows what pain or joy.
When it's spoken sometimes
the listener flinches, wants to
force it back into the mouth
that dropped it like a net.
Sometimes it has been waited
for so long it has lost its juice
wizened now, a winter potato
in the bottom of the sack.
Sometimes we fall into it
willing to take what we can get.
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