Marge Piercy is the author of 18 collections of poetry, most recently The Crooked Inheritence and this spring, her second volume of new and selected poems 1980-2010 The Hunger Moon, out from Knopf. She has published 17 novels, most recently Sex Wars. Two of her early novels, Dance The Eangle To Sleep and Vida, are being republished with new introductions by PM Press this fall. Her work has been translated into 19 languages. Her memoir Sleeping With Cats is available from Harper Perennial.
Early February dreaming
I look at the drab brown scabby earth
that in winter seems half the size
of the summer garden, Still, after
minutes I see rising like steeples
the Brussels spouts, the tomatoes
that at first seem a forest of stakes,
whose first green pingpong balls
we will worshipfully await;
the teepees of pole beans fiercely
climbing and twining to erupt
in yellow and purple and green,
the one where the hummingbird
builds her annual test and stands
in the air in front of our faces
protecting, fierce as a fighter
plane. The peppers stingy
at first and then in September
feeling their mortality, weigh
down their branches with fruit.
The early spinach, the leeks
imitating grass blades. My
desire is cannibal but true.
The seeds come in the mail
like love letters promising.
Gale force winds
This day seems at odds with itself.
The sun ignites every shiny
rhododendron leaf, pounds
on the roof, but trees are bending
on themselves in the onslaught of wind.
The sky is a medium blue without
a wisp of cloud. Where does the wind
come from? A storm out to sea
too far to push in rain? Something
unseen but keenly felt as the wind
scours my face, pushes my body
backwards, sidewards, burns my eyes.
A lightbulb flickers. Papers dash by.
A branch breaks off with a loud crack.
Dust ghosts dance on the bare earth.
I have felt like this day, on edge
and restless, discontent without obvious
reason, biting at myself, a dog
with an itch. It is so hard to guess
what wild wind disturbs my mind.
What do they expect?
What traces have I left
on all the bodies I have held?
Do they remember my mouth.
Let them forget.
Some come like cats howling
in the night for sex withheld.
Some have gone from my mind.
Their scent has drifted off.
Some I remember with anger
but that too runs down the drain.
Maybe the sink is still dirty.
Maybe the water is clean.
I dream of none of them.
I dream of my mother and cats.
I dream of danger and hunger.
I dream my dying.
What prints do we leave
on old lovers? Do they wash
off or wear down? Sometimes
they turn up expecting
that I will still be the girl
they bedded, maybe they still
see her smooth and willing.
They find only me
like a old oak rooted deep,
like a cat who has learned
where to find her food
and where she will only starve.
Look back in utter confusion
Sometimes I think I am a fiction
and only memories strung together
hold my life to some coherence.
If all my lovers stood in a line
what commonality would I see
except luck good and bad,
except need and accident,
desperation like a bad cough
recurring to convulse my body.
If all the clothes I wore were strung
on a blocklong clothesline, I’d see
not decoration but roles, all
in a row, selves slipped into, now
too tight, too loose, too short.
Discarded for a new foray.
But if my cats were lined up
I’d know exactly how I loved each
their games, their habits, how
they lived with me and died
leaving me. If all the edicts
I put forth, manifestos, summons,
all those didactic moments came
swarming, I’d duck and run. I
was so sure. Then not. Then not
at all. Yet I go stumbling on
bearing my nametag still wonder-
ing how I came to get here.