It is a fortunate coincidence that today is both International Women’s Day and the release date of Marge Piercy‘s The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems 1980-2010 by New York publisher Alfred Knopf. In my review of the latter in New York Journal of Books in addition to mentioning that Piercy is a political and feminist poet, I note, “The Hunger Moon, her second volume of selected poems, a rich selection from the last three decades, … includes: narrative poems about her childhood in Detroit, young adulthood in Manhattan, everyday life with her husband and cats on Cape Cod where they are year round residents, among other subjects on all of which she is a terrific storyteller; nature poems that describe the fauna and flora of the Cape; love poems, some of which attest to the strength, devotion and passion of her current marriage, while others reflect the pain of less healthy previous relationships, pain that still smarts despite her current conjugal happiness; and religious poems that are popular choices for reading out loud at Jewish life cycle events, some of which are reprinted in “additional readings” anthologies meant to supplement non-Orthodox Jewish prayer books.” (source: New York Journal of Books)
Hebrew Union College awarded Piercy an honorary doctorate for her liturgical poems. Examples of her Jewish poems include:
The chuppah stands on four poles.
The home has its four corners.
The chuppah stands on four poles.
The marriage stands on four legs.
Four points loose the winds
that blow on the walls of the house,
the south wind that brings the warm rain,
the east wind that brings the cold rain,
the north wind that brings the cold sun
and the snow, the long west wind
bringing the weather off the far plains.
Here we live open to the seasons.
Here the winds caress and cuff us
contrary and fierce as bears.
Here the winds are caught and snarling
in the pines, a cat in a net clawing
breaking twigs to fight loose.
Here the winds brush your face
soft in the morning as feathers
that float down from a dove’s breast.
Here the moon sails up out of the ocean
dripping like a just washed apple.
Here the sun wakes us like a baby.
Therefore the chuppah has no sides.
It is not a box.
It is not a coffin.
It is not a dead end.
Therefore the chuppah has no walls.
We have made a home together
open to the weather of our time.
We are mills that turn in the winds of struggle
converting fierce energy into bread.
The canopy is the cloth of our table
where we share fruit and vegetables
of our labor, where our care for the earth
comes back and we take its body in ours.
The canopy is the cover of our bed
where our bodies open their portals wide,
where we eat and drink the blood
of our love, where the skin shines red
as a swallowed sunrise and we burn
in one furnace of joy molten as steel
and the dream is flesh and flower.
O my love O my love we dance
under the chuppah standing over us
like an animal on its four legs,
like a table on which we set our love
as a feast, like a tent
under which we work
not safe but no longer solitary
in the searing heat of our time.
Look around us, search above us, below, behind.
We stand in a great web of being joined together.
Let us praise, let us love the life we are lent
passing through us in the body of Israel
and our own bodies, let’s say amen.
Time flows through us like water.
The past and the dead speak through us.
We breathe out our children’s children, blessing.
Blessed is the earth from which we grow,
Blessed the life we are lent,
blessed the ones who teach us,
blessed the ones we teach,
blessed is the word that cannot say the glory
that shines through us and remains to shine
flowing past distant suns on the way to forever.
Let’s say amen.
Blessed is light, blessed is darkness,
but blessed above all else is peace
which bears the fruits of knowledge
on strong branches, let’s say amen.
Peace that bears joy into the world,
peace that enables love, peace over Israel
everywhere, blessed and holy is peace, let’s say amen.
Listen to Piercy reading “The Chupa” here.
“The Chupa” and “Kaddish” appear in both The Hunger Moon: New and Selected Poems 1980-2010 and in The Art of Blessing the Day, Poems with a Jewish Theme either of which would make a terrific gift for Jewish-American poetry readers.
For more info: David Cooper