Today's poetry for today's world

Marge Piercy


Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen volumes of poetry.  Her eighteenth The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010 will be published by Knopf this coming March.  Besides being a popular poet and novelist, Piercy has written the highly aclaimed memoir Sleeping with CatsShe is also well known for her activisim against the Vietnam and Iraq wars, her work in civil rights, and for being a leading voice in the women's movement.  She lives in Wellfleet, Massachusettes, with her husband, Ira Wood.  






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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.




Published in Rattle, Vol. # 14, Issue 2, 2008,

forthcoming in The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010.          







The happy man




Pierre Joseph Redoute painted roses;

also succulents, lilies, rare tropical

imports, but most famously, roses.


He was from a family of journeymen

painters, never famous, portraits

to order, flattering of course,


church and abbey decorations.

But Redoute painted flowers.  He

looked like a peasant, squarish


in body, strong with huge misshapen

hands, not what aristocrats or critics

expect.  But Redoute painted flowers.


He ambled through courts, Marie

Antoinette’s play village at Versailles,

Revolution, Terror, Napoleon.  Josephine’s


triumph and her divorce, Charles X,

Louis Philippe, court painter to each

in turn unfailingly friendly, painting flowers.


His younger brother loved beetles

and reptiles instead of court ladies

to paint, but Redoute painted flowers.


Money came to him like rain to a garden.

He drank it in blindly, gave it to others,

spent it like the water it seemed.


Always more tomorrow.  He grew old,

unfashionable.  Money lenders sucked

him dry but he never drooped.  Flowers


were always calling.  At the end poor

but busy, brush in hand he died smiling

as he painted a perfect white lily.




Published in Poesis, Vol. # 9, 2007,

forthcoming in The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010.







The tao of touch




What magic does touch create

that we crave it so.  That babies

do not thrive without it.  That

the nurse who cuts tough nails

and sands calluses on the elderly

tells me sometimes men weep

as she rubs lotion on their feet.   


Yet the touch of a stranger

the bumping or predatory thrust

in the subway is like a slap.

We long for the familiar, the open

palm of love, its tender fingers.

It is our hands that tamed cats

into pets, not our food.


The old woman looks in the mirror

thinking, no one will ever touch

me again, never.  Not hold me.

Nor caress the softness of my

breasts, my inner thighs, the swell

of my belly.  Do I still live

if no one knows my body?


We touch each other so many

ways, in curiosity, in anger,

to command attention, to soothe,

to quiet, to rouse, to cure.

Touch is out first language

and often, our last as the breath

ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.




Published in Prairie Schooner, Vol. 84, #2, 2010,

forthcoming in The Hunger Moon: Selected Poems, 1980 - 2010.







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