Prayer #72: Used

To Be of Use

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Marge Piercy (thanks to Sus for sharing this poem)

Prayer #72: Used

You made us to be used.

Though we have beautiful elements, we are not decoration.
Though we have distinct forms, we are designed for function.
Though we have keen minds, we are soul above all.

In a world shrinking with each transaction
Amid oceans evaporating into steam
With people starving, striving, succeeding at each bend,
We forget we came from dust
And to dust we will return.

So remind us of our muddy birth. Tug on our earth-bound roots, still linked to the billion strangers summed up by colored borders on the map. Smear clay on our eyes, palms, and soles so we can move mountains, ever closer to You, and prove useful in Your eyes.