To have without holding- Marge Piercy

This love poem by Marge Piercy speaks to me as strongly now as it did when I first read it over 30 years ago.

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.
It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.
It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch ; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.
I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.
Marge Piercy, “To have without holding” from The Moon is Always Female. Copyright © 1980 by Marge Piercy.

For Strong Women- Marge Piercy

In honor of National Poetry Month

A strong woman is a woman who is straining
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

From The Moon is Always Female, 1985

Limited but fertile possibilities are offered by this brochure- Marge Piercy

the moon is always female

In honor of National Poetry Month

We cannot have monogrammed towels
or matches with our names on. We cannot
have children. We cannot share joint
tax returns. We don’t have a past.
Our future is a striped unicorn, fragile,
shy, the first of a new
species born without kind
to hostile kin. We can work together
snarling and giggling and grunting.
Every few years we can have a play
as offspring. We can travel. We can
go away and come back. We can shake
each other rattling honest. We can have long
twining soft voiced phonecalls that leave me
molten and fevered. We can make each other
laugh, cry, groan till our flesh shines
phosphorescent, till heat shimmers in the room,
till we steam with joy and streamers of light
run down the insides of our eyes.
We can love. We can love. We can
love.

 

From The Moon is Always Female, 1985

Intimacy- Marge Piercy

the moon is always female

In honor of National Poetry Month

Why does my life so often
feel like a slither of entrails
pouring from a wound in my belly?
With both my hands I grasp
my wet guts, trying to force
them back in.

Why does my life
so often feel like a wild
black lake under the midnight
thunder where I am drowning,
waves crashing over my face
as I try to breathe.

Why
does my life feel like a war
I am fighting alone? Why are
you fighting me? Why aren’t
you with me? If I die this instant
will you be more content
with the morning news?
Will your coffee taste better?
I am not your fate. I am not your government.
I am not your FBI. I am not
even your mother, not your father
or your nightmare or your health.
I am not a fence, not a wall.
I am not the law or the actuarial tables
of your insurance broker. I am
a woman with my guts loose
in my hands, howling and it is not
because I committed hara-kiri.
I suggest either you cook me
or sew me back up. I suggest you walk
into my pain as into the breaking
waves of an ocean of blood, and either
we will both drown or we will
climb out together and walk away.

 

From The Moon is Always Female, 1985

For Strong Women- Marge Piercy

the moon is always female

In honor of National Poetry Month

A strong woman is a woman who is straining
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing “Boris Godunov.”
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn’t mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren’t you feminine, why aren’t
you soft, why aren’t you quiet, why aren’t you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you’re so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. Every baby,
a tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

From The Moon is Always Female, 1985