Three Poems by Marge Piercy

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 hurst 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.

How I weave trouble

I am happy at the typewriter,
happy hilling up the soil
at the base of the spindly young leeks,
happy walking the dune road
watching for plover, happy
rolling wine on my tongue,
happy stirring the thick soup.

When I complicate my life
why do I smile,
smile as if I had just
crushed a fat sweet
oyster against my teeth?

When an old lover springs
up again like an amanita mushroom
beside my path, when a
new lover coalesces from
the glittering cloud of a party,
when I begin to balance
lunches and suppers and
afternoons and evenings
and whole nights through
like a pile of too many
plates on a tray, why
do I smile?

An urge to elaboration
like the genius of Oriental
carpets grips me. I want
borders inside borders,
medallions and intricate mosaics
of thread. You could say
I was weaned from the rich
breast milk too young, you
could say I was starved of
love and am its glutton. You
could say I like to have
many houses where I am welcomed
in, many hidey holds, many
beds where I can curl
and be warmed. You could say
when I travel I want to
be met, when I come home
I want to be greeted.
I sniff like a cat at
new boxes and hop in.

You could say love leaps burning
hot in me like the fires
of a star and it needs many
windows, many doors, or it eats
me to ash. Energy forces me
outward expanding like a universe
yet I can stand to leave
nothing, no one I have loved.

So I weave back and
forth, forth and back,
a rug patterned of warmth
and light, and when I find
a new scarlet thread shining
to add to the design,
I smile.

A new constellation

We go intertwined, him and you
and me, her and him, you and her,
each the center of our own circle
of attraction and comopulsion and gravity.
What a constellation we make: I call it
the Matrix. I call it the dancing
family. I call it wheels inside wheels.
Ezekiel did not know he was seeing
the pattern for enduring relationship
in the late twentieth century.

All the rings shine gold as wedding bands
but they are the hoops magicians use
that seem solid and unbroken, yet can slip
into chains of other rings and out.
They are strong enough to hang houses on,
strong enough to serve as cranes, yet
they are open. We fall through each other,
we catch each other, we cling, we flip on.

No one is at the center, but each
is her own center, no one controls
the jangling swing and bounce and merry-
go-round lurching intertangle of this mobile.
We pass through each other trembling
and we pass through each other shrieking
and we pass through each other shimmering.
The circle is neither unbroken
nor broken but living, a molecule attracting
atoms that wants to be a protein,
complex, mortal, able to sustain life,
able to reproduce itself inexactly,
learn and grow.

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