Mompriest and I are discussing poetry on our respective blogs. Now it's my turn -- and this is the next poem I want to share.
I discovered this poem in a book of essays called The Impossible Will Take a Little While, edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. The essays, from various faith traditions, speak about the connections between social justice and spirituality. There were also several poems in the anthology, including this one. I think of this poem, as well, when I consider my younger stepson and his girlfriend, who last May built a kiln in our backyard for a school project they did together on Japanese Raku pottery.
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 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.
(from collection called Circles on the Water, Alfred A. Knopf, 1982)