Read My Mother's Body Online

Authors: Marge Piercy

Tags: #American, #Poetry, #General

My Mother's Body

Advertising Download Read Online
Also by Marge Piercy


Colors Passing Through Us

The Art of Blessing the Day

Early Grrrl

What Are Big Girls Made Of?

Mars and Her Children

Available Light

My Mother's Body

Stone, Paper, Knife

Circles on the Water (Selected Poems)

The Moon Is Always Female

The Twelve-Spoked Wheel Flashing

Living in the Open

To Be of Use

(with Robert Hershon, Emmett Jarrett, Dick Lourie)

Hard Loving

Breaking Camp


Three Women

Storm Tide
(with Ira Wood)

City of Darkness, City of Light

The Longings of Women

He, She and It

Summer People

Gone to Soldiers

Fly Away Home

Braided Lives


The High Cost of Living

Woman on the Edge of Time

Small Changes

Dance the Eagle to Sleep

Going Down Fast


Sleeping with Cats, A Memoir

So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and the Personal Narrative
(with Ira Wood)

The Last White Class: A Play
(with Ira Wood)

Parti-Colored Blocks for a Quilt: Essays

Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now: An Anthology

The Earth Shines Secretly: A Book of Days
(with paintings by Nell Blaine)


Copyright © 1977, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 by Marge Piercy

“What Makes It Good?” and “We Come Together” copyright © 1985 by Ira Wood, reprinted by permission.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.

Some of these poems were previously published in
Bits Press
Cedar Rock
Croton Review
Jam To-Day
Manhattan Poetry Review
Negative Capability
Open Places
Poem the Nukes
Speculative Poetry Review
Star Line
Thirteenth Moon
, and
Woman of Power
“The Chuppah” first appeared in
, the independent Jewish women's magazine, 250 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019, © copyright Lilith Publication, Inc., 1983. All rights reserved.

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Piercy, Marge.    My mother's body.    I. Title.
9    1985       811′.54       84-48661
eISBN: 978-0-307-76139-2


In Memory of my Mother

Bert Bernice Bunnin Piercy

and for my husband

Ira Wood

They inhabit me

I am pregnant with certain deaths

of women who choked before they

could speak their names

could know their names

before they had names to know.

I am owl, the spirit said,

I swim through the darkness on wide wings.

I see what is behind me

as well as what is before.

In the morning a splash of blood

on the snow marks where I found

what I needed. In the mild

light of day the crows mob

me, cursing. Are you the daughter

of my amber clock-tower eyes?

I am pregnant with certain deaths

of women whose hands were replaced

by paper flowers, which must be kept

clean, which could tear on a glance,

which could not hold even water.

I am cat. I rub your prejudices

against the comfortable way they grow.

I am fastidious, not as a careful

housewife, but as a careful lover,

keeping genitals as clean as face.

I turn up my belly of warm sensuality

to your fingers, purring my pleasure

and letting my claws just tip out.

Are you the daughter of the fierce

aria of my passion scrawled on the night?

I am pregnant with certain deaths

of women who dreamed that the lover

would strike like lightning and throw

them over the saddle and carry them off.

It was the ambulance that came.

I am wolf. I call across the miles

my messages of yearning and hunger,

and the snow speaks to me constantly

of food and want and friend and foe.

The iron air is heavy with ice

tweaking my nose and the sound

of the wind is sharp and whetted.

Commenting, chatting, calling,

we run through the net of scents

querying, Are you my daughter?

I am pregnant with deaths of certain

women who curled, wound in the skeins

of dream, who secreted silk

from spittle and bound themselves

in swaddling clothes of shrouds.

I am raccoon. I thrive in woods,

I thrive in the alleys of your cities.

With my little hands I open

whatever you shut away from me.

On your garbage I grow glossy.

Among packs of stray dogs I bare

my teeth, and the warring rats part.

I flourish like the ailanthus tree;

in your trashheaps I dig underground

castles. Are you my daughter?

I am pregnant with certain deaths

of women who wander slamming doors

and sighing as if to be overheard,

talking to themselves like water left

running, tears dried to table salt.

They hide in my hair like crabs,

they are banging on the nodes of my spine

as on the door of a tardy elevator.

They want to ride up to the observation

platform and peer out my eyes for the view.

All this wanting creates a black hole

where ghosts and totems whirl and join

passing through into antimatter of art,

the alternate universe in which such certain

deaths as theirs and mine throb with light.

The Annuity

When I was fifteen we moved

from a tight asbestos shoebox

to a loose drafty two-story house,

my own tiny room prized under the eaves.

My privacy formed like a bud from the wood.

In my pale green womb I scribbled

evolving from worm to feral cat,

gobbling books, secreting bones,

building a spine one segment

at a time out of Marx and Freud.

Across the hall the roomers lived,

the couple from Appalachia who cooked

bacon in their room. At a picnic

she miscarried. I held her

in foaming blood. Lost twins.

Salesmen, drab, dirty in the bathroom,

solitary, with girly magazines,

detective stories and pads of orders,

invoices, reports that I would inherit

to write my poems on;

overgrown boys dogging you

out to the backyard with the laundry

baskets; middle-aged losers with eyes

that crawled under my clothes

like fleas and made me itch;

those who paid on time and those

with excuses breaking out like pimples

at the end of the month.

I slammed my door and left them,

ants on the dusty plain.

For the next twenty years

you toted laundry down two flights,

cleaned their bathroom every morning,

scrubbed at the butt burns,

sponged up the acid of their complaints

read their palms and gave common

sense advice, fielded their girlfriends,

commiserated with their ex-wives,

lied to their creditors, brewed

tisanes and told them to eat fruit.

What did you do with their checks?

Buy yourself dresses, candy, leisure?

You saved, waiting for the next depression.

You salted it away and Father took control,

investing and then spending as he chose.


Other books

The CEO Gets Her Man by Ashby, Anne
Cross of Fire by Mark Keating
Worth the Risk by Claudia Connor
Rogue's Passion by Laurie London
Ocean of Love by Susan D. Taylor
The Schooldays of Jesus by J. M. Coetzee
Zombie Island by David Wellington
Cowboys Mine by Stacey Espino