UPDATE: In my last blog post, I mentioned that my sister’s room is usually messy. She has cleaned it, and wanted me to let you, the reader, know that.
All of my life, I have been a science person. At my middle school, we were asked to sell magazines, and from my older brother, who sold me magazines, my parents bought for me national geographic for kids, and later Discover magazine. I was fascinated by the things that scientists were doing. I found history and literature to be boring, and static. Nothing changed about history and literature; no future advances were going to be made that would save lives, no furthering of human knowledge.
Both of my parents are very much into history and literature. My dad has read through all of Shakespeare’s plays many times, and my mother loves Russian history and literature. As a kid, despite my cries of pain and suffering, they made me read and have some appreciation for literature. For many summers, my dad had a reading list for me filled with Greek epics, Charles Dickens, and the occasional science fiction novel to appease me.
There are, however infrequently, times in which poetry expresses sentiments that I have. Almost exactly one month ago, my older brother got married, and at his wedding, the poem below was read. Our dad gave this poem to him when he left for medical school. Within our family, the sentiments expressed within the poem have always been stressed. Our father would frequently remind my brother and I that if we were going to do a job, we should do it right or not do it at all. I am pretty sure that was told to me every time that the lawn was not mowed to standard, or a spot was missed washing the car, or a paper was written poorly for a class, or (in honor of my sister), my room was not properly cleaned.
To be of use
by 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.