New Dogs, Now, in My Own Poems
Thirty years ago, my parents gave me a copy of Mars and Her Children by the poet Marge Piercy. I was 13, and it was my first adult poetry book, one that was mine, not for children, and not for class. As I remember it, it was a title I chose. A couple months later, when the author came to read at our Massachusetts synagogue, she inscribed it to me.
The poetry collection is divided into sections: Violet, Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo. A single poem at the beginning, “The ark of consequence,” by way of introduction, plays on the “ark” of Noah and the “arc” of rainbow that “promises / only, this world will not self-destruct.” The rainbow, “a boomerang of liquid / light,” also reminds us that we can’t escape our actions and that “what we / toss out returns in the water table.” We must remember: “we / are given only this floating round ark / with the dead moon for company and warning.”
Other poems also contain ecological warnings, like “For she is a tree of life”: “When the tree falls, we will not rise as plastic / butterfly spaceships, but will starve as the skies / weep hot acid and the earth chafes into dust.”
There’s a warning of political crisis in “Do not erect the wall before yourselves”:
This is not an allegory, you say, it is right
now. We are both thinking of Auschwitz
and Sobibor, and you say you grasp
now how people did not really care to notice.
The pain of others is the noise of traffic passing.
Of course, the world is very large and is not confined to our personal interpretations of it. As we internalize this, we readjust our perceptions and come to experience ourselves as part of the world, as in “Shad blow”:
Once I thought the seasons were mine,
moons, passions, itches I could scratch,
voids I could fill with other’s bodies.
Now I know I am in the seasons, of them.
On the Body
On the subject of the body and sexuality, I felt I understood the meaning of Piercy’s words…