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
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
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
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
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.
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.