Friday, July 06, 2007

Poetry Friday: Putting the Good Things Away

Putting the Good Things Away, by Marge Piercy

In the drawer were folded fine
batiste slips embroidered with scrolls
and posies, edged with handmade
lace too good for her to wear.

Daily she put on
fit only to wash the car
or the windows, rags
that had never been pretty

even when new: somewhere
such dresses are sold only
to women without money to waste
on themselves, on pleasure,

to women who hate their bodies,
to women whose lives close on them.
Such dresses come bleached by tears,
packed in salt like herring.

Yet she put the good things away
for the good day that must surely
come, when promises would open
like tulips their satin cups

for her to drink the sweet
sacramental wine of fulfillment....

Read the rest of the poem here

My grandmother on my father's side bought a blue silk kimono in case she ever had to go to the hospital. She didn't want to wear the hospital gowns, after all. My grandma tucked away the blue silk kimono, but when one of her daughters admired it so, my grandmother gave it to her. Some time after, my grandmother found a green silk kimono to wear for that day in the future when she might have to go to the hospital. Her other daughter admired it so, and thus my grandmother gave away the green kimono. My grandmother then bought a bright red kimono. She showed it to me, and told me about how she had already given away the other two kimonos. "It is indeed a lovely kimono," I said.

"You should take it then," she said.

"But what about when you go to the hospital?" I asked.

"Eh!" she said with scorn, and made me take the red kimono.

Some time after that, my grandmother did have to go to the hospital. She wore the hospital gowns. A year later, when I was in college, I ruefully sent her "Putting the Good Things Away" and my own response poem about my grandmother, written in my Women's Poetry and Performance class.

Today's Poetry Friday Roundup is at Farm School.


Schelle said...

I know old ladies like that too - my grandmother was, and my mother-in-law... not my mother though - she always insists we should use the best china for everyday because what is the point of having nice things if you don't use them? I sit on the fence of that debate :)

And you WERE first - I posted my poems this morning, gaining an unfair advantage from the time difference - I have just come out from putting Wombat to bed for his nap and checked to see if Farm School had posted so I could leave my link - but Becky had already been out and found me!

goddess of clarity said...

When I first moved to Seattle, I went to the eye doctor to get some new glasses. When it came time to chose frames, I naturally gravitated toward the cheap-o section. My friend said, "why are you only looking at the cheap ones? You should spend the most money on the things you wear everyday."

It was a revelation to me. I walked out sporting a new pair of Ralph Laurens.

Lone Star Ma said...

That's a beautiful, thought-provoking poem. I would love to read yours if you ever care to share it (um, and everything else you wrote in that class...)

jules said...

That is a great poem. I love her "To Be of Use," which I believe is somewhere on our blog. I must get more of her stuff. Thanks.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Schelle: Ah, yes, you Aussies and your unfair advantage of the Southern Hemisphere!

Goddess: Good for your friend! And good for you for taking her sage advice. The only reason I didn't buy the fancy green glasses from France last time I got glasses was because they had the peripheral vision of a flea. Instead, I got the cheaper but still fun green glasses. And now, our whole family has green glasses. We are Green Lanterns.

Jules: Me too! I just have the poems in my Norton Anthology. Though now with this wide wild newfangled internet thing...

TadMack said...

I love that other people still have their Norton anthologies. Just. Love. It.

And this poem made me sniffle.
What kind of life are you leading if no day is ever good enough for the good things? At some point the junk you're packing up and lugging around from china cabinet to china cabinet gets to be too much... I mean, whatever happened to "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without?" At some point, we have to use what we have.

Thanks for a solidly good thought today. And I shall look up other Marge Piercy poems as well.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Tadmack: I've been lugging those Norton anthologies around since I left college! I'm glad you appreciated the poem. I love how Poetry Friday distills the wide range of poems into weekly installments.

cloudscome said...

Beautiful poem! I'd really love to see yours next. And I have my Norton's all lined up on my living room bookshelves.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Cloudscome: I'll have to dig it out of my juvenalia somewhere in the basement.

Melangell said...

I feel really rotten that I once made my daughter feel bad that while I was gone (in India, la-la-la) she had given a dinner party using her grandmother's good dishes.

My dear mother had treasured those dishes and had managed to keep them all intact through many years of moving from Nebraska to India to Kansas to Indiana. Then I got them.

To my daughter, if she ever reads this, thank you.

My daughter did not break them. And ever since her sorrow and fury and disappointment that I was upset, and particularly since finding this poem which I discovered in my Poetry Therapy training, I have tried to USE the dishes that I have inherited from several generations back instead of hording them. They are CROCKERY. My memories and the connections that they invoke are what is sacred.

Melangell said...

My dear Alkelda, I am not so good at editing my posts. The middle line, thanking my daughter, was supposed to come at the end of the post. So sorry.