20+ Best Marge Piercy Poems You Must Read Right Now

Marge Piercy is an American poet, novelist, and social activist. Her work includes Woman on the Edge of Time; He, She and It, which won the 1993 Arthur C. Clarke Award; and Gone to Soldiers, a New York Times Best Seller a sweeping historical novel set during World War II.

If you’re searching for famous poems of all time that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of greatest Robert Herrick poems, powerful Edgar Allan Poe poems and most known Alan Alexander Milne poems.

Famous Marge Piercy Poems

More Than Enough

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.
All over the sand road where we walk
multiflora rose climbs trees cascading
white or pink blossoms, simple, intense
the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy
clumps of flower and the blackberries
are blooming in the thickets. Season of
joy for the bee. The green will never
again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads
into the wind. Rich fresh wine
of June, we stagger into you smeared
with pollen, overcome as the turtle
laying her eggs in roadside sand.

Rape Poem

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside.
There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.
There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.
There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race.
The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the “normal” male
Like a maggot in garbage.
Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
All of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
Never to climb a trail across a bald
Without that aluminum in the mouth
When I see a man climbing toward me.
Never to open the door to a knock
Without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of the hedges,
The back seat of the car, the empty house
Rattling keys like a snake’s warning
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
In whose fist is locked with hatred.
All it takes to cast a rapist is seeing your body
As jackhammer, as blowtorch, as machine gun.
All it takes is hating that body
Your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.
All it takes is to push what you hate,
What you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
Armoured with treads without senses
To possess and punish in one act,
To rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
Live in the leafy flesh open to love. The fear of the smiling man
In whose pocket is a knife.

Some things return in spring

The brave spears of the garlic
rustle in the damp hair of the wind
off the marsh brushing them:
a sound you will never again hear.

The maple is waving little russet
hands. Long brown scaled buds
line the beech twigs. Spring
explodes into hundreds of daffodils

on the hillside that was yours.
Tulips strut their brilliance bowing
to the sun where you will no
longer pass. My tears are

brief years after you died. Still
my thoughts are bouquets like
the red tulips I can never lay
on your invisible grave.

Maggid

The courage to let go of the door, the handle.
The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very
stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles
of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,
a child’s naughtiness, a loud blattering storm
that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,
the small bones of children and the brittle bones
of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;
the courage to desert the tree planted and only
begun to bear; the riverside where promises were
shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned
as early as your own, whose customs however dan-
gerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter
you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;
the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;
the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known
into the pain that cannot be imagined,
mapless, walking into the wilderness, going
barefoot with a canteen into the desert;
stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship
sailing off the map into dragons’ mouths,

Cathay, India, Siberia, goldeneh medina2
leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.
So they walked out of Egypt.3 So they bribed their way
out of Russia under loads of straw; so they steamed
out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe
on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports—

out of pain into death or freedom or a different
painful dignity, into squalor and politics.
We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes
under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours
raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed
tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers
and gave birth to children who could look down
on them standing on their shoulders for having
been slaves. We honor those who let go of every-
thing but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,
who became other by saving themselves.

Fox in the morning

The grey fox, so called
actually the color of wet sand
here on the Cape, pads
daintily past the herb garden.

See, I murmur to her or him,
you still exist. I argued
with a park biologist
you hadn’t died out here.

I’ve seen you eating wild
grapes near the dunes.
I watched your kits run
up pitch pines for safety.

Even with the coywolves
hunting you and the red
fox claiming your territory
you are at home where

you belong, stopping to
check out birdseed we
scattered on needles, left-
over cashews you gobble.

You move like the wind
through dead grasses snow
has not yet flattened and
vanish brush of tail last.

Season of skinny candles

A row of tall skinny candles burns
quickly into the night
air, the shames raised
over the rest
for its hard work.

Darkness rushes in
after the sun sinks
like a bright plug pulled.
Our eyes drown in night
thick as ink pudding.

When even the moon
starves to a sliver
of quicksilver
the little candles poke
holes in the blackness.

A time to eat fat
and oil, a time to gamble
for pennies and gambol

The birthday of the world

On the birthday of the world
I begin to contemplate
what I have done and left
undone, but this year
not so much rebuilding

of my perennially damaged
psyche, shoring up eroding
friendships, digging out
stumps of old resentments
that refuse to rot on their own.

No, this year I want to call
myself to task for what
I have done and not done
for peace. How much have
I dared in opposition?

How much have I put
on the line for freedom?
For mine and others?
As these freedoms are pared,
sliced and diced, where

have I spoken out? Who
have I tried to move? In
this holy season, I stand
self-convicted of sloth
in a time when lies choke

the mind and rhetoric
bends reason to slithering
choking pythons. Here
I stand before the gates
opening, the fire dazzling

my eyes, and as I approach
what judges me, I judge
myself. Give me weapons
of minute destruction. Let
my words turn into sparks.

The Secretary Chant

My hips are a desk,
From my ears hang
chains of paper clips.
Rubber bands form my hair.
My breasts are quills of
mimeograph ink.
My feet bear casters,
Buzz. Click.
My head is a badly organized file.
My head is a switchboard
where crossed lines crackle.
Press my fingers
and in my eyes appear
credit and debit.
Zing. Tinkle.
My navel is a reject button.
From my mouth issue canceled reams.
Swollen, heavy, rectangular
I am about to be delivered
of a baby
Xerox machine.
File me under W
because I wonce
was
a woman.

Interspecies

I was teaching a residency in Cincinnati
living in a loft in Over the Rhine,
our four cats transported from home
from our gardens, our pine and white
oak woods above the marsh—
their paradise and ours.

We were aliens in an alien
land where names like Rosenberg
were Germans, not Jews. We
shopped in a farmers market
that featured a hundred
fifty ways to eat pig.

We were sinking in scum green
stagnant hours. We befriended
a crazy woman for company.
The zoo was walking distance.
Every winter day I didn’t teach
we visited and soon

we had made friends. The two
snow leopards would run to
the glass separating us, putting
their paws up to our hands.
They would rub like kitties
against the barrier.

I was not so stupid as
to think without the thick
glass we would romp together.
But they and we were lonely,
far from home, stuck in a place
we didn’t and couldn’t belong.

To have without holding

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.

Visiting a dead man on a summer day

In flat America, in Chicago,
Graceland cemetery on the German North Side.
Forty feet of Corinthian candle
celebrate Pullman embedded
lonely raisin in a cake of concrete.
The Potter Palmers float
in an island parthenon.
Barons of hogfat, railroads and wheat
are postmarked with angels and lambs.

But the Getty tomb: white, snow patterned
in a triangle of trees swims dappled with leaf shadow,
sketched light arch within arch
delicate as fingernail moons.

The green doors should not be locked.
Doors of fern and flower should not be shut.
Louis Sullivan, I sit on your grave.
It is not now good weather for prophets.
Sun eddies on the steelsmoke air like sinking honey.

On the inner green door of the Getty tomb
(a thighbone’s throw from your stone)
a marvel of growing, blooming, thrusting into seed:
how all living wreathe and insinuate
in the circlet of repetition that never repeats:
ever new birth never rebirth.
Each tide pool microcosm spiraling from your hand.

Sullivan, you had another five years
when your society would give you work.
Thirty years with want crackling in your hands.
Thirty after years with cities
flowering and turning grey in your beard.

All poets are unemployed nowadays.
My country marches in its sleep.
The past structures a heavy mausoleum
hiding its iron frame in masonry.
Men burn like grass
while armies grow.

Thirty years in the vast rumbling gut
of this society you stormed
to be used, screamed
no louder than any other breaking voice.
The waste of a good man
bleeds the future that’s come
in Chicago, in flat America,
where the poor still bleed from the teeth,
housed in sewers and filing cabinets,
where prophets may spit into the wind
till anger sleets their eyes shut,
where this house that dances the seasons
and the braid of all living
and the joy of a man making his new good thing
is strange, irrelevant as a meteor,
in Chicago, in flat America
in this year of our burning.

Toad dreams

That afternoon the dream of the toads rang through the elms by Little River and affected the thoughts of men, though they were not conscious that they heard it.- Henry Thoreau
The dream of toads: we rarely
credit what we consider lesser
life with emotions big as ours,
but we are easily distracted,
abstracted. People sit nibbling
before television’s flicker watching
ghosts chase balls and each other
while the skunk is out risking grisly
death to cross the highway to mate;
while the fox scales the wire fence
where it knows the shotgun lurks
to taste the sweet blood of a hen.
Birds are greedy little bombs
bursting to give voice to appetite.
I had a cat who died of love.
Dogs trail their masters across con-
tinents. We are far too busy
to be starkly simple in passion.
We will never dream the intense
wet spring lust of the toads.

To be of use

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 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.

Ne’ilah

The hinge of the year
the great gates opening
and then slowly slowly
closing on us.

I always imagine those gates
hanging over the ocean
fiery over the stone grey
waters of evening.

We cast what we must
change about ourselves
onto the waters flowing
to the sea. The sins,

errors, bad habits, whatever
you call them, dissolve.
When I was little I cried
out I! I! I! I want, I want.

Older, I feel less important,
a worker bee in the hive
of history, miles of hard
labor to make my sweetness.

The gates are closing
The light is failing
I kneel before what I love
imploring that it may live.

So much breaks, wears
down, fails in us. We must
forgive our broken promises—
their sharp shards in our hands.

My mother’s body

The dark socket of the year
the pit, the cave where the sun lies down
and threatens never to rise,
when despair descends softly as the snow
covering all paths and choking roads:

then hawkfaced pain seized you
threw you so you fell with a sharp
cry, a knife tearing a bolt of silk.
My father heard the crash but paid
no mind, napping after lunch

yet fifteen hundred miles north
I heard and dropped a dish.
Your pain sunk talons in my skull
and crouched there cawing, heavy
as a great vessel filled with water,

oil or blood, till suddenly next day
the weight lifted and I knew your mind
had guttered out like the Chanukah
candles that burn so fast, weeping
veils of wax down the chanukiya.

Those candles were laid out,
friends invited, ingredients bought
for latkes and apple pancakes,
that holiday for liberation
and the winter solstice

when tops turn like little planets.
Shall you have all or nothing
take half or pass by untouched?
Nothing you got, Nun said the dreydl
as the room stopped spinning.

The angel folded you up like laundry
your body thin as an empty dress.
Your clothes were curtains
hanging on the window of what had
been your flesh and now was glass.

Outside in Florida shopping plazas
loudspeakers blared Christmas carols
and palm trees were decked with blinking
lights. Except by the tourist
hotels, the beaches were empty.

Pelicans with pregnant pouches
flapped overhead like pterodactyls.
In my mind I felt you die.
First the pain lifted and then
you flickered and went out.

2.

I walk through the rooms of memory.
Sometimes everything is shrouded in dropcloths,
every chair ghostly and muted.

Other times memory lights up from within
bustling scenes acted just the other side
of a scrim through which surely I could reach

my fingers tearing at the flimsy curtain
of time which is and isn’t and will be
the stuff of which we’re made and unmade.

In sleep the other night I met you, seventeen
your first nasty marriage just annulled,
thin from your abortion, clutching a book

against your cheek and trying to look
older, trying to look middle class,
trying for a job at Wanamaker’s,

dressing for parties in cast off
stage costumes of your sisters. Your eyes
were hazy with dreams. You did not

notice me waving as you wandered
past and I saw your slip was showing.
You stood still while I fixed your clothes,

as if I were your mother. Remember me
combing your springy black hair, ringlets
that seemed metallic, glittering;

remember me dressing you, my seventy year
old mother who was my last dollbaby,
giving you too late what your youth had wanted.

3.

What is this mask of skin we wear,
what is this dress of flesh,
this coat of few colors and little hair?

This voluptuous seething heap of desires
and fears, squeaking mice turned up
in a steaming haystack with their babies?

This coat has been handed down, an heirloom
this coat of black hair and ample flesh,
this coat of pale slightly ruddy skin.

This set of hips and thighs, these buttocks
they provided cushioning for my grandmother
Hannah, for my mother Bert and for me

and we all sat on them in turn, those major
muscles on which we walk and walk and walk
over the earth in search of peace and plenty.

My mother is my mirror and I am hers.
What do we see? Our face grown young again,
our breasts grown firm, legs lean and elegant.

Our arms quivering with fat, eyes
set in the bark of wrinkles, hands puffy,
our belly seamed with childbearing,

Give me your dress that I might try it on.
Oh it will not fit you mother, you are too fat.
I will not fit you mother.

I will not be the bride you can dress,
the obedient dutiful daughter you would chew,
a dog’s leather bone to sharpen your teeth.

You strike me sometimes just to hear the sound.
Loneliness turns your fingers into hooks
barbed and drawing blood with their caress.

My twin, my sister, my lost love,
I carry you in me like an embryo
as once you carried me.

4.

What is it we turn from, what is it we fear?
Did I truly think you could put me back inside?
Did I think I would fall into you as into a molten
furnace and be recast, that I would become you?

What did you fear in me, the child who wore
your hair, the woman who let that black hair
grow long as a banner of darkness, when you
a proper flapper wore yours cropped?

You pushed and you pulled on my rubbery
flesh, you kneaded me like a ball of dough.
Rise, rise, and then you pounded me flat.
Secretly the bones formed in the bread.

I became willful, private as a cat.
You never knew what alleys I had wandered.
You called me bad and I posed like a gutter
queen in a dress sewn of knives.

All I feared was being stuck in a box
with a lid. A good woman appeared to me
indistinguishable from a dead one
except that she worked all the time.

Your payday never came. Your dreams ran
with bright colors like Mexican cottons
that bled onto the drab sheets of the day
and would not bleach with scrubbing.

My dear, what you said was one thing
but what you sang was another, sweetly
subversive and dark as blackberries
and I became the daughter of your dream.

This body is your body, ashes now
and roses, but alive in my eyes, my breasts,
my throat, my thighs. You run in me
a tang of salt in the creek waters of my blood,

you sing in my mind like wine. What you
did not dare in your life you dare in mine.

The friend

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?

The cup of Eliyahu

In life you had a temper.
Your sarcasm was a whetted knife.
Sometimes you shuddered with fear
but you made yourself act no matter
how few stood with you.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.

Now you return to us
in rough times, out of smoke
and dust that swirls blinding us.
You come in vision, you come
in lightning on blackness.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.

In every generation you return
speaking what few want to hear
words that burn us, that cut
us loose so we rise and go again
over the sharp rocks upward.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.

You come as a wild man,
as a homeless sidewalk orator,
you come as a woman taking the bima,
you come in prayer and song,
you come in a fierce rant.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that she may come in.

Prophecy is not a gift, but
sometimes a curse, Jonah
refusing. It is dangerous
to be right, to be righteous.
To stand against the wall of might.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.

There are moments for each
of us when you summon, when
you call the whirlwind, when you
shake us like a rattle: then we
too must become you and rise.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that we may come in.

The cat’s song

Mine, says the cat, putting out his paw of darkness.
My lover, my friend, my slave, my toy, says
the cat making on your chest his gesture of drawing
milk from his mother’s forgotten breasts.

Let us walk in the woods, says the cat.
I’ll teach you to read the tabloid of scents,
to fade into shadow, wait like a trap, to hunt.
Now I lay this plump warm mouse on your mat.

You feed me, I try to feed you, we are friends,
says the cat, although I am more equal than you.
Can you leap twenty times the height of your body?
Can you run up and down trees? Jump between roofs?

Let us rub our bodies together and talk of touch.
My emotions are pure as salt crystals and as hard.
My lusts glow like my eyes. I sing to you in the mornings
walking round and round your bed and into your face.

Come I will teach you to dance as naturally
as falling asleep and waking and stretching long, long.
I speak greed with my paws and fear with my whiskers.
Envy lashes my tail. Love speaks me entire, a word

of fur. I will teach you to be still as an egg
and to slip like the ghost of wind through the grass.

The Air Smelled Dirty

Everyone burned coal in our neighborhood,
soft coal they called it from the mountains
of western Pennsylvania where my father
grew up and fled as soon as he could, where
my Welsh cousins dug it down in the dark.

The furnace it fed stood in the dank
basement, its many arms upraised
like Godzilla or some other monster.
It was my job to pull out clinkers
and carry them to the alley bin.

Mornings were chilly, frost on windows
etching magic landscapes. I liked
to stand over the hot air registers
the warmth blowing up my skirts.
But the basement scared me at night.

The fire glowed like a red eye through
the furnace door and the clinkers fell
loud and the shadows came at me as
mice scampered. The washing machine
was tame but the furnace was always hungry.

The cup of Eliyahu

In life you had a temper.
Your sarcasm was a whetted knife.
Sometimes you shuddered with fear
but you made yourself act no matter
how few stood with you.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
Now you return to us
in rough times, out of smoke
and dust that swirls blinding us.
You come in vision, you come
in lightning on blackness.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
In every generation you return
speaking what few want to hear
words that burn us, that cut
us loose so we rise and go again
over the sharp rocks upward.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
You come as a wild man,
as a homeless sidewalk orator,
you come as a woman taking the bima,
you come in prayer and song,
you come in a fierce rant.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that she may come in.
Prophecy is not a gift, but
sometimes a curse, Jonah
refusing. It is dangerous
to be right, to be righteous.
To stand against the wall of might.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that he may come in.
There are moments for each
of us when you summon, when
you call the whirlwind, when you
shake us like a rattle: then we
too must become you and rise.
Open the door for Eliyahu
that we may come in.

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