A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

Four Poems by Marge Piercy

Stripped Down

On Rosh Hashana it is inscribed

On Yom Kippur it is sealed…

At 84 how those works resonate.

 

Will I live to pray on another Yom

Kippur? Some by plague, it says

of the deaths coming this year.

 

A plague never was real to me

before now. Fire devours more

lives. I live in fear of it, while

 

drought kills frogs and trees.

Death has taken so many.

How can I not expect I may

 

be among them? I make what

amends I can. An isolated

solemnity weighs upon me all

 

this day without rabbi or cantor.

I speak sacred words into silence.

A Jew alone is incomplete.

In the Land of the Fearful

The clerk works in a store

that requires masks. A man

strides down the aisle, bare—

faced. What should she do?

 

If she doesn’t say something

she may be fired. If she tells

him the law, he may shoot her.

Those people boil with rage.

 

We go about wary, nervous.

An unmasked person's top dog—

we're afraid of them, breaking

rules means they don't give

 

the tiniest damn about me, you.

Their entitlement is a super

villain's cloak. We get out

of their way—unless we can't.

Monstrous Me

I was sitting on our porch steps

musing on a garden half planted.

A small feisty red squirrel searched

through daffodils, eating sunflower

 

seeds fallen from the bird feeder.

He frisked closer and closer.

Oh, he saw me, froze and then

rose at least six feet in the air

 

then bounded away in terror.

Why do I feel so guilty?

We are so often the enemy

who cuts down nest trees,

 

one who builds houses on

ancient land the animals owned.

Or I Could Ride an Elephant

Circuses would come to Detroit

once or twice a year, Barnum

and Bailey's I remember, set up

in a swath of vacant lots.

 

I liked the smells, the animals,

sawdust, hotdogs. I liked lions

and tigers best—big cats

like my smaller one.

 

I loved trapeze acts. I knew

I could never learn that, but

their grace and daring made

me cherish them all.

 

I never liked clowns. They

didn't make me laugh or care.

Something cruel there, off—

I could smell it.

 

Elephants parading, prancing

white horses with women dancing

on their backs: I imagined

I could do that.

 

Two aunts were professional

dancers, so couldn't I perform?

I meant to run off with the circus,

but next day it left

 

on a train. I was stuck home

where I practiced dancing

in tiny circles, so I'd be ready

whenever the circus came back.

Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy was born and raised in Detroit before going to the University of Michigan and then getting an MA at Northwestern. She has four honorary degrees. Marge Piercy’s 20th poetry book ON THE WAY OUT, TURN OFF THE LIGHT was published last fall from Knopf, who published MADE IN DETROIT before that. Her second selected poems (also from Knopf) is called THE HUNGER MOON. Knopf has published her last 17 poetry collections. She has produced 17 novels, most recently SEX WARS from Harper Collins. PM has republished several earlier novels with new introductions including DANCE THE EAGLE TO SLEEP, VIDA and BRAIDED LIVES. They also put out her first short story collection THE COST OF LUNCH, ETC and a collection of essays and poems MY LIFE, MY BODY. Her memoir is SLEEPING WITH CATS from Harper Perennial.

 

In addition to winning a National Endowment on the Arts award, she has also served as a judge for them on both poetry and fiction panels. She put together an anthology of women’s poetry EARLY RIPENING and has written four other nonfiction books including PESACH FOR THE REST OF US: Making the Passover Experience Your Own. She joined a group of rabbis to produce the Shabbat morning Reconstructionist siddur OR CHADASH. She has published in hundreds of literary magazines extensively and continues to do so. She has given readings, speeches, and workshops in over 550 venues here and abroad. Her work has been translated into 23 languages. Every June (except when prevented by Covid) she conducts a juried intensive poetry workshop in Wellfleet limited to 12 poets.

 

Marge Piercy
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