Poem of the Month


One of the expendables

 

Cape Cod is wed to the mainland

by two bridges, on mild week

ends and all summer fed

by miles of backed up cars.

 

Right across Massachusetts

Bay, one of the worst nuclear

power plants, clone of Fukishima

leaks into the bay. On its roof

 

three thousand spent rods fester.

Vulnerable to tsunami, flooding,

attack from the air or land

it squats menacing us, polluting.

 

We who live here all year, our

hundred thousands of summer

visitors, we have been deemed

expendable since we cannot

 

by any means be evacuated.

“Shelter in place” means breathe

in, absorb through your skin,

drink, swallow, eat radiation.

 

Your home will be uninhabitable

should you happen to survive

at least a while before cancer

dissolves your organs. The fragile

 

land, the pure water we cherish

will be tainted for decades. Fish,

birds, your dog and cats, raccoons,

squirrels, coywolves expendable

 

too. We count for nothing

compared to profits for a utility

housed in New Orleans where

you’d imagine they know floods.

 

We’re the throwaway people,

not as real as corporations.

Chop off the crooked arm

of Cape Cod and let us bleed.

 

Copyright 2013 Marge Piercy
First Published in The Cape Cod Times, May 23, 2013

 

Ghosts

How often we navigate by what is no
longer there. Turn right where the post
office used to be. She lives in a condo
above where the bakery blew sweet
yeasty smells into the street. A nail
salon now.

 

Kelsey Hayes had a factory there
on Livernois where our neighbors
worked. A foundry spat out metal
where the strip club spits neon
now and loud skanky music
into the night.

 

Rows of little cheap houses replaced
by a few McMansions. Where did
all those people go? The workers
in factories, in tool and dye shops,
the shoemakers and tailors, mom
and pop eateries?

 

You can be plunked down in Anywhere
U.S.A. and see the same row of stores
Target, Walmart, Gap, Toys-R-Us.
Exit the superhighway: McDonalds,
Taco Bell, Burger King, Hardees,

you haven’t moved.

 

That’s where the school was: see,
it’s condos now. That’s the church
the parish closed to pay for priests’
sex. China got the shoe factory.
Urban renewal turned the old neighbor-
hood to dust.

 

Some things we make better and some
are destroyed by greed and bad
politics. We live in the wake
of decisions we didn’t share in,
survivors of a vast lethal typhoon
of power.

 

Copyright 2013 Marge Piercy
First Published in The Monthly Review, Volume 64, Issue 10

 

What it means

 

Unemployed: soon invisible,

after a while, unemployable,

unwanted, with your future

eroding along with confidence,

sense of self, the family

cracking along old fault lines.

And what do you do? Age.

 

 

Out of work: out of security,

out of value, out of the routine

that organizes the days, out

of health insurance, out of

the house when the mortgage

can’t be paid, out on the street,

out of society, out of luck.

 

 

Your job was shipped

overseas. Your job and two

others are being done now

by one frantic worker.

A robot replaced you.

Your company was bought

and demolished.

 

 

Somebody elected you

superfluous, a discard.

Somebody made money;

somebody bought a yacht

with your old salary. Some-

body has written you off,

somebody is killing you.

 

 

At night when you can no

longer sleep, don’t blame your-

self. What could you have

done? Nothing. Choices were

made to fatten dividends,

bloat bonuses, pay for a new

trophy wife and private plane.

 

 

You did nothing wrong

except your birth. Wrong

parents. Wrong place. Wrong

race. Wrong sex. If only

you’d had the sense to be

born to the one percent

life would be truffles today.

 

Copyright 2012 Marge Piercy
First Published in The Monthly Review, Volume 64, Issue 04, Sept. 2012

 

End of days

 

Almost always with cats, the end

comes creeping over the two of you –

she stops eating, his back legs

no longer support him, she leans

to your hand and purrs but cannot

rise – sometimes a whimper of pain

although they are stoic.  They see

death clearly through hooded eyes.

 

Then there is the long weepy

trip to the vets, the carrier no

longer necessary, the last time

in your lap.  The injection is quick.

Simply they stop breathing

in your arms.  You bring them

home to bury in the flower garden,

planting a bush over a deep grave.

 

That is how I would like to cease,

held in a lover’s arms and quickly

fading to black like an old fashioned

movie embrace.  I hate the white

silent scream of hospitals, the whine

of pain like air conditioning’s hum.

I want to click the off switch.

And if I can no longer choose

 

I want someone who loves me

there, not a doctor with forty patients

and his morality to keep me sort

of, kind of alive or sort of undead.

Why are we more rational and kinder

to our pets than with ourselves or our

parents? Death is not the worst

thing; denying it can be.

 

Copyright 2011 Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy, from THE HUNGER MOON: New & Selected Poems 1980-2010, Knopf, 2011.

 

Another obituary

 

We were filled with the strong wine
of mutual struggle, one joined loud
and sonorous voice. We carried
each other along revolting, chanting,
cursing, crafting, making all new.

 

First Muriel, then Audre and Flo,
now Adrienne. I feel like a lone
pine remnant of virgin forest
when my peers have met the ax
and I weep ashes.

 

Yes, young voices are stirring now
the wind is rising, the sea boils
again, yet I feel age sucking
the marrow from my bones,
the loneliness of memory.

 

Their voices murmur in my inner
ear but never will I hear them
speak new words and no matter
how I cherish what they gave us
I want more, I still want more.

 

Copyright 2012 Marge Piercy
First published in MS. Magazine Blog on March 29, 2012, in honor of the life of Adrienne Rich (1929-2012): friend, poet, feminist activist.