That Country

By Grace Paley 1922–2007 Grace Paley
This is about the women of that country
Sometimes they spoke in slogans
They said
       We patch the roads as we patch our sweetheart’s trousers   
       The heart will stop but not the transport
They said
       We have ensured production even near bomb craters   
       Children let your voices sing higher than the explosions
                                                    of the bombs
They said
       We have important tasks to teach the children
       that the people are the collective masters
       to bear hardship
       to instill love in the family
       to guide the good health of the children (they must
       wear clothing according to climate)
They said
       Once men beat their wives
       now they may not
       Once a poor family sold its daughter to a rich old man   
       now the young may love one another
They said
       Once we planted our rice any old way
       now we plant the young shoots in straight rows
       so the imperialist pilot can see how steady our
       hands are

In the evening we walked along the shores of the Lake   
                                                of the Restored Sword

I said   is it true?   we are sisters?   
They said   Yes, we are of one family

Grace Paley, “That Country” from Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley. Copyright © 1999 by Grace Paley. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000)

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Poet Grace Paley 1922–2007

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Gender & Sexuality, Relationships, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Grace  Paley

Biography

With her first two books of short stories, Grace Paley established her niche in the world of letters. Her distinctive voice and verbal gifts have captured the hearts of critics who praise her vision as well as her style. In short and sometimes plotless tales, she plumbs the lives of working-class New Yorkers, mapping out what New York Review of Books contributing critic Michael Wood called "a whole small country of damaged, . . .

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SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Gender & Sexuality, Relationships, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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