|From Wikimedia Commons|
It's funny, I think, how a poem can wrap itself around your heart in different ways, at different times in your life. Don Graves introduced me to Marge Piercy's poem, "To Be of Use" almost twenty years ago. I still remember sitting in his study in Durham, New Hampshire, hearing Don read the poem aloud.
I fell in love with "To Be of Use" and have read it hundreds of times. I've used it repeatedly in workshops to talk about the importance of providing kids with work that is authentic and rich and deep. In fact, it's been kind of a theme song running through my work with teachers and kids.
But I am in a different season of life right now. The past two years have been long and spirit draining. Last week, a friend sent me a note reminding me about Piercy's poem. She alluded to these lines, in the middle of the poem. I went back and reread "To Be Of Use." And it was like I was reading an entirely different poem than the one I had read before. I'm struck, probably for the millionth time, by how much of a poem's meaning lies in the reader, not in the black squiggles on the page.
And I'm so grateful for poetry's healing touch.
And for this friend's sweet presence in my life.
"To Be Of Use"
…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.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Ed DeCaria is hosting Poetry Friday at Think, Kid, Think.