Mother, would you know me now? by Marge Piercy


You were jealous of my slenderness

always asked how I stayed thin.

I had no answer. And now I’m fleshy


not like you were, in your misery

only something sweet could quiet

but would you know me?  Your eyes

are mine now, I ache as you did.


I can no longer walk ten miles

on my new titanic knees.  I had

cataracts the same as you, but I

could pay to have them removed.


I don’t have to beg to buy a new

coat.  Watching your life, I swore

always to support myself and have

but the poverty we shared shaped me.


I am always laying up food in case

it goes away.  I have more sweaters

than I need.  I buy in bulk and stow.

I will always fear indebtedness.


I like to think you’d look in my face

and still say daughter.  I am only

a few years younger than you were

when I lost you, flying south to you


when my father turned off your

ventilator so I never said goodbye.

I dream you stand in my kitchen

watching me cook and you smile.


Masks, Boston 1966
Masks, Boston 1966 by Marie Cosindas
© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY

Some rough in the hand, some smooth by Marge Piercy


On the sill of the window

beside my desk, a row of stones

sits, collected on travels.  Like

builders of stone circles – some


grand like Avebury or Stonehenge

most small, just the local rocks

that could be easily moved

into place, but special in their way—


I find some stones liminal, giving

off power like radiation.  Some

from famous sites –the Acropolis—

or seldom visited like a temple


only a pile of rubble on a mountain

top in the Peloponnesus where not

even a path led to it.  A place

where I was struck as if by a rock


where a tribe was massacred

near Chico.  A stone circle

where I dozed and woke to wild

moor ponies staring down at me.


One from an Oregon black beach

that felt holy.  One with flecks

of garnet from Newcomb Hollow

nearby. One brought from Israel


and given me. When I feel empty

of poems I fondle them, feel

strength seeping into my palms.

They sing for me and I listen.


Fragrance, 1984
Fragrance, 1984 by Marie Cosindas
© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY

A front moves in by Marge Piercy


The moon was fuzzy yesterday

like a moldy cheese stuck

in a mob of clouds. Tonight,

a shiny quarter you could spend.


A coarse wind swept the humidity

back into the sea that absorbed

it into waves mincing to shore.

Tomorrow morning will ring


like a tuning fork. The cats

collapsed on sunporch chairs

like old fur coats will dance

in the sun and chase each other.


I make promises to myself

of great energy, lists to do.

An electric day is rare in July

and has to be used up before


the days of humid ennui return

turning my muscles to mush

filling my head with caterpillars

who nibble my brain away.



Three Jewish women were intensely important to me and had much to do with shaping me as a human being and as a writer: my mother, my grandmother and my aunt Ruth. All “mothered” me in various ways. None of them were sentimental. My grandmother was able to give me the unconditional love she could only lavish on her youngest son of eleven children. Poverty, constant pregnancy that continued from her late teen years until she was 52 and bore my uncle Danny gave most of her children what they considered minimal attention. But I was her first and favorite grandchild and she was able to be very affectionate.

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Marge Piercy is a master of the “p’shat”. If we read her work and life the way Jews interpret Torah. “P’shat” means the clear meaning of the words. What runs through the work of Piercy is strength. Not afraid to be political in a polite world, if she had a fear it was to be invisible. On hearing Allen Ginsberg read for the first time Piercy says “That mix of grimness and pain and humor runs right through my childhood and came back out in my poetry, set free from its ghetto of repression.” This was the night that Piercy claimed her stake in language “I would not again attempt to write like an English gentleman professor.”

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The Golden Vase, Los Angeles 1970

The Golden Vase, Los-Angeles, 1970 By Marie Cosindas

© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY

Asparagus IV, 1967
Asparagus IV, 1967 by Marie Cosindas
© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY


The Boston Globe says that Marge Piercy is a cultural touchstone. “Few writers . . . have sustained her passion, and skill, for creating stories of consequence.”  

It is not just that Piercy has written seventeen novels, eighteen books of poetry, a memoir, a play, a book on writing, a cookbook, essays, and a book of short stories, it is the range and quality of her expressed passions that make her an icon, a legend, and a synonym for creative excellence, skill and verve.  Marge Piercy understands Sex Wars, The Longings of Women, and Women on the Edge of Time; she shows how it is to live Braided Lives, and to experience The High Cost of Living and Hard Loving. Her work is a pallet of art– Colors Passing Through Us as she portrays the complex world we live in.

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“POEMS ARE MADE OF SOUND AND SILENCE.” Marge Piercy and Tova Gannana in conversation.

In your memoir “Sleeping with Cats” you talk about growing up in Detroit and the many experiences you had with death. Animal deaths, a girlfriend’s death and your Grandmother Hannah’s death. You talk about the first fiction and poetry you wrote “My first poems were about death of course. I was death obsessed.” Does one write about death as a way to understand living- to write yourself out of death?


Not animal deaths. Death of my cat. At different stages of a writer’s life the motivations are different. I felt a great sense of loss at both the death of a girlfriend Pat, my dear grandmother and the poisoning of my cat. I had no other way to deal with my grieving. Our society provides few and largely inadequate ways to mourn. We returned to Detroit immediately, so only spent perhaps an hour with my aunt Ruth sitting shivah. When I write about death now, it’s again from loss, specific losses. At my age, many of my friends are dying. I have lost three close to me all of cancer in the last year, and my agent since 1974, both friend and agent, to lung cancer the year before. Another dear friend almost died this summer and was in a coma for eight days. Another has “recovered” from melanoma. Another was diagnosed last week with incurable brain cancer after being told he was cancer free from a form of leukemia. I feel surrounded, besieged by cancer. Death feels as if it’s closing in and I miss those people I have lost including my BFF Elise. I write poems about each of these people but the loss goes on and on. I still mourn my mother, who died of a stroke thirty years ago. Each death leaves a hole in my life, some bigger than others but all there as long as I live. No one I care about is ever replaced.

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Floral, c. 1962-1963 by Marie Cosindas
© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY

Paul with Artichoke, Paris 1968

Paul with artichoke, Paris 1968 by Marie Cosindas

© Marie Cosindas, courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, NY

So dry it frightens me by Marge Piercy


it hasn’t rained in so long

the grass has forgotten how to grow

the annuals are thin brown sticks

perennials have shrunk into the ground


The sky is a bronze lid pressing down

the sun is an angry blow torch

creek bottoms are cracked ceramics

frogs lie dead on the margins of dry pools


I dream of fire lighting the pitch pines

from a careless tourist’s cigarette

the air is dirty and heavy with pollen

and exhaust.  Leaves droop.


The morning feels toxic.  We chafe

and scrape along, rubbing dry limbs

that should sound like crickets chirping

calling not for mates but for rain.


So many dear ones by Marge Piercy


A year marked with stones

the dying going down into earth

a hole in the ground, a hole

in my life.  Some became ashes


the wind could lift and scatter

like torn up pages.  I did not want

you to become memories.  I can

no longer reach any of you.


We touch each other with hands

with words with sex with letters

and emails and food. Then all

gone.  No way through any more


and no end to the wanting of it.

How long and cold is that wind now.

I feel stripped, the painted wall

of a house half demolished.


Becoming one, he said by Marge Piercy


Rain falls on the pond

and is absorbed, become

instantly a part of what

it fell into.


When I was young and could

only see a face or two ahead

I imagined being ecstatically

consumed by love–


one in a roaring blue flame

with the lover.  But who really

wants to join that totally

with anyone?


Mind, opinions, history, tastes

all lightning blasted. Romance

isn’t love but myth alluring

into a mirror lined


pit of nonsense.  Mystics long

for that obliteration, but I

treasure my coarse grasp

on the lion’s tail of living.  


Not that I want to be safe

but to keep my mind whetted

so it cuts through infatuations

like butter, like snow.