Flying Over the Nebraska of My Life
by Marge Piercy
So much of our lives dissolves.
What did I do the day before
I met you? You remember
what I was wearing that holiday.
What did I wear the next morning?
What did I write the day my mother died?
I fly at night over the plains.
There is a cluster of lights,
a starfish shape glittering. Then
darkness and darkness.
Then another clump bearing
long daisy petals of roadway.
Then nothing again. How much
of my living has fled like water
into sand. The sand is not
even damp to the hand.
Tears and wine and sparkling
water all vanish the same.
I know looking out the plane's
dirty window that there are houses,
barns, roads, trees, stores
distinct in that darkness I once
drove through. I knew them and will
never know them again.
The plane is flying from lighted
place to lighted place, but
our arc is from the dark into
brightness then back into darkness.
I want to possess my own life like a
necklace, pearl by pearl of light.
John Berryman said,
"The artist is extremely lucky who is
presented with the worst possible ordeal
which will not actually kill him.
At that point, he's in business."
Poem: "Advice to Young Writers,"
by Ron Padgett, from You Never Know
(Coffee House Press).
Advice to Young Writers
One of the things I've repeated to writing
students is that they should write when they don't
feel like writing, just sit down and start,
and when it doesn't go very well, to press on then,
to get to that one thing you'd otherwise
never find. What I forgot to mention was
that this is just a writing technique, that
you could also be out mowing the lawn, where,
if you bring your mind to it, you'll also eventually
come to something unexpected ("The robin he
hunts and pecks"), or watching the "Farm News"
on which a large man is referring to the "Greater
Massachussetts area." It's alright, students, not
to write. Do whatever you want. As long as you find
that unexpected something, or even if you don't.
Poem: "The day my mother died,"
by Marge Piercy, from
Colors Passing Through Us
The day my mother died
I seldom have premonitions of death.
That day opened like any
ordinary can of tomatoes.
The alarm drilled into my ear.
The cats stirred and one leapt off.
The scent of coffee slipped into my head
like a lover into my arms and I sighed,
drew the curtains and examined
the face of the day.
I remember no dreams of loss.
No dark angel rustled ominous wings
or whispered gravely.
I was caught by surprise
like the trout that takes the fly
and I gasped in the fatal air.
You were gone suddenly as a sound
fading in the coil of the ear
no trace, no print, no ash
just the emptiness of stilled air.
My hunger feeds on itself.
My hands are stretched out
to grasp and find only their
own weight bearing them down
toward the dark cold earth.