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A tail of squirrels and men

 

Squirrels are just rats with bushy

tails, a friend says. But I admire

their persistence.  A hanging

squirrel proof feeder is just

a problem to be solved.

 

Some of us turn away at

any wall or even a hedge:

it might like narrow English roads

hide stone inside the leaves.

Safety is comfort at rest.

 

Some can’t give up no matter

how many times they fail;

they lack an off switch.  They

batter themselves on jagged

rocks sure there’s a way through.

 

How do we sense enough?

A red squirrel outside jumps

and climbs and leaps, always

ends on the ground.  Giving

up feels shameful, but I couldn’t

 

grind my life away on granite

that would never yield.  So after

a time and a half and more

I finally opened the door,

walked quickly away from him.

A reckoning in flesh

 

My good body, the horse

I’ve ridden through high roiling water

and wind scoured desert, over

barely marked trails of broken stone:

there is no horse. I am the horse.

 

You are slower now. I am slower.

I have seams where implements

have been inserted. I no longer

dance all night, dance partners

down. Walk miles all day for pleasure.

 

I am my own fate. Inside is my death.

What storm will tear my entrails?

My faithful clock of a heart

will run down.  The skull longs

to shine in moonlight, bare at last.

 

Ann Boleyn knew the hour of her end

yet hoped till the last second Henry

would relent.  But most of us think

of death only in the well of night

while fiery stars wheel over our beds.

 

Space is the coldest cold.  But I live

on a smaller scale where ice threatens

and two degrees make a fever. Body,

you are just me and I’m just you

no matter how I punish and reward.

 

That red silk dress

 

When I was young, I believed

in the magic of clothes.  Certain

dresses were come hither icons.

Clad in leather, I was tough as iron.

 

If something bad happened – a break

up ending an affair prematurely, at

least from my viewpoint, a nasty

fight, then that dress was cursed

 

to hide in the back of the closet

till finally donated to Good Will.

Certainly necklaces were lucky;

every object put on me could bring

 

what I wanted or feared. Now

they’re just inert things that no

longer promise a future, though

they may still whisper memories.

Marge Piercy is the author of seventeen novels including The New York Times Bestseller Gone To Soldiers; the National Bestsellers Braided Lives and The Longings of Women and the classic Woman on the Edge of Time; eighteen volumes of poetry, and a critically acclaimed memoir Sleeping with Cats. Born in center city Detroit, educated at the University of Michigan, the recipient of four honorary doctorates, she has been a key player in many of the major progressive political battles of our time. Her first collection of short stories The Cost of Lunch, Etc. was published in Summer, 2014, and her nineteenth volume of poetry, Made in Detroit, published from Knopf in April, 2015.

 

A popular speaker on college campuses, she has been a featured writer on Bill Moyers’ PBS Specials, Prairie Home Companion, Fresh Air, the Today Show, and many radio programs nationwide including Air America and Oprah & Friends. Her poems are read frequently on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.

 

Praised as one of the few American writers who are accomplished poets as well as novelists — Piercy is one of our country’s best selling poets — she is also the master of many genres: historical novels, science fiction (He, She, and It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction in the United Kingdom), novels of social comment and contemporary entertainments. She has taught, lectured and/or performed her work at well over 400 universities around the world.

 

“Marge Piercy is not just an author, she’s a cultural touchstone. Few writers in modern memory have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence.”

-The Boston Globe