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World Building

by Marge Piercy

Married academic woman ten
years younger holding that microphone
like a bazooka, forgive
me that I do some number of things
that you fantasize but frame
impossible. Understand:
I am my mother's daughter,
a small woman of large longings.

Energy hurled through her
confined and fierce as in a wind
tunnel. Born to a mean
harried poverty crosshatched
by spidery fears and fitfully
lit by the explosions
of politics, she married her way
at length into solid working-class:
a box of house, a car she could
not drive, a TV set kept turned
to the blare of football,
terrifying power tools, used wall
to wall carpeting protected
by scatter rugs.

Out of backyard posies
permitted to fringe
the proud hanky lawn
her imagination hummed
and made honey,
occasionally exploding
in mad queen swarms.

I am her only novel.
The plot is melodramatic,
hot lovers leap out of
thickets, it makes you cry
a lot, in between the revolutionary
heroics and making good
home-cooked soup.
Understand: I am my mother's
novel daughter: I
have my duty to perform.

Marge Piercy included this poem in her book of poetry, "The Moon is Always Female," first published in 1984. I felt the ethos of her words in my bones, thinking of my own mother who desperately wanted to major in Forensic Science in the early 1950s, only to be told women were not allowed in the field and shunted into sociology. I think about my mother, top of her university class academically, working two secretarial jobs for male bosses possessing half her intelligence for a quarter of their wages. I think of my mother wanting so much more than her world would yield up; how she struggled for a foothold, demanding of me I carry that fierce hunger and hard work and do better. Hit harder with the chisel and crack a few more walls.

I can't claim that I was able to do this with my life. Not in a way that encompasses grand change. But in my daughter's life I have seen change that matters. And so I think it goes. For mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. We crack doors more ajar with each generation, heart and shoulder to wood. Seek more, demand more. We may ourselves settle for less, but with hope the next set of shoulders will carry the day. And in time, I believe this is true.

On this Father's Day, as Mother's Day, let us celebrate the work of generations. Acknowledge the sacrifices of grandparents and parents - flags on the masts of a new generations of ships that set sail with rich cargos of more than fresh ambition. As Marge Piercy writes so eloquently, we are each someone's novel. The work-in-progress of a grand and daring world-building that began early in Grandma's kitchen, or Dad's garage, in the warmth of Mom's home-made soup.

I offer gratitude for these daring works of imagination.
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