Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sugar Was Her Comfort

Author of eighteen books of poetry as well as seventeen novels, Marge Piercy celebrated her seventy-fifth birthday this year. Since 1971 she has lived on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with her novelist husband. Together they run Leapfrog Press. Her 1999 collection of poems, The Art of Blessing the Day includes a poem about her mother called “What She Craved.” The poet credits her mother—an emotional, enormously curious and imaginative woman who read voraciously—with giving her whatever it is that makes her want to write poetry. Piercy’s poetry is often highly personal, often angry with an emotional quality. Her free verse sometimes reflects a commitment to social and environmental issues. Rather than a comment on issues shaded with anger, the poem below is perhaps more a remembrance.


My mother sugared grapefruit;
my father salted it.
My mother sugared cantaloupe;
my father salted it.

My mother put sugar and lemon
on leaf lettuce from her garden;
two heaping teaspoonfuls into
her milky coffee, with cake.

Her teeth rotted out and were
yanked from her bleeding jaws
by a cheap sadist downtown.
Still she craved sweetness.

In a life with too much that
was bitter, tear soaked salty,
sour as unspoken grief,
sugar was her comfort

a little sweetness in the mouth
lingering like an infrequent kiss;
sugar was the friend kept her clock
ticking through running down days.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. Captures what is often a comfort in life is also never a hedge against the battle all will one day lose against the "running down days."


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America