OTI Online
Summer 1997

Thou shalt not complain about anything I might have to fix
by Marge Piercy

It's always embarrassing when some woman
rolls up her blouse sleeve to show you a bruise
not sexy even, just colored like a charcoal
sunset, the fingerprints of pain.

We have been trained to ignore the cries
through the motel wall. After all, maybe
he's paying for it. Some women like
to be hurt. You know how cats sound then.

It is as if she stripped in the committee room,
so awkward, so tiresome, her pain
scattered around the room like used
underwear, not bustiers but nylon slips.

It's comfortable here in my office,
the corner office finally. It's cosy
on my twenty-fourth floor with balcony,
here in the compound with a guard
     at the gate.

You weep into my telephone,
leaving desperate messages on my
      answering machine.
You write me long handwritten notes
I throw into the paper shredder.

You buttonhole me in the hallway,
stand beside my table while I consume
my brioche, march outside with signs.
I step into your hard luck on the street.

Don't you understand your pain bores
me? 1 am all for free expression
except for those who whine,
who weep, who moan, who scream.

I will listen gladly to any complaint
I share; I will sign on for any charity
I don't have to smell. I only object
to demanding  change from me.


MARGE PIERCY is the author of 13 novels and 12 collections of poetry. What Are Big Girls Made Of? is her most recent work.

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