Maybe I should have known … when I used this poem as the opening for my application essay:
To Be of Use ~ Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Maybe I should have known … when I wept for hours on my drive from Butte to Eugene, feeling like my heart was breaking into pieces …
Maybe I should have known … when the wheel almost flew off my car the first day of my drive … or when my brakes almost failed on the second day of my drive coming down off the shoulders of the Three Sisters …
Maybe I should have known … when I realized I could not find landmarks in the frantic landscape of this city and I wandered without familiar directions …
Maybe I should have known … when my six mile walks began to whittle away until I was too ill to walk across campus …
Maybe I should have known … when I would simply pause and imagine stepping onto the trail in Butte, when my heart would slow its frenzied pace and a smile would spread gently across my face …
Some things take time to know … like baking bread, you need experience and you are kneaded, heated, and done. A friend asked if I was “dropping out” … no, I answered, I’m honing in … like a butterfly finding the scent path, weaving this way and that way through the summer breezes … like tacking into the wind to find your way back to harbor … to home.
From my archives ~ February 2012