Treasure Island

Marge Piercy

(March 31, 1936 / Detroit, Michigan)

A Work of Artifice


The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

Do you like this poem?
4 person liked.
1 person did not like.

Read poems about / on: tree, nature, hair, work

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Comments about this poem (A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy )

Enter the verification code :

  • Colleen Courtney (5/18/2014 1:27:00 PM)

    I tend to agree with Martin's interpretation of this piece. I find this poem wonderfully powerful! (Report) Reply

  • Martin O'Neill (2/22/2012 7:41:00 AM)

    This to me is a cry against the human need to control, dominate and frequently distort that which is beautiful in it's natural state already.
    Fashion is simply that tendency taken to a different level. Binding feet to conform with some twisted idea of beauty.
    This to me is an angry poem of passion. I think it is excellent. (Report) Reply

  • Anonymous Writer (10/29/2009 6:25:00 PM)

    Taylor Callis: If you would've read Marge Piercy's biography, you would've known that Marge Piercy was born in 1938. Did she really write this poem as an eight year old little girl who obviously knew nothing about the Depression going on? A Work of Artifice was a poem published in Marge's The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems with a Jewish Theme in 1999. She was writing the poem refering to women's rights in the 1960's and that time period. An artifice by the way is -A Clever of Artsy Skill. Reread the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Taylor Callis (9/18/2009 9:22:00 AM)

    I'd like to comment on what Glen Shorts said. Apparently Glen thinks that this poem is advocating the shrinking and belittling actions of the gardener, but lets explore this a bit why don't we? First of all, lets look at the title. A work of Artifice. Artifice almost literally means a social stupidity. So the title of this poem means 'A Work of Social Stupidity'. Now, lets look at who wrote the poem and when. A woman wrote this poem in the 1930's, when women were supposed to stay at home and clean and have kids. However, we know today that women have just as much potential as men do. So if one wants to look at the metaphors in the poem, the tree growing 80 feet tall is the potential of a woman, but society then was whittling them down and making them only 9' tall, less than 1% of their potential. The writer is not talking about literal height, she is comparing height to potential. The general tone of the poem is that the writer is pretty pissed off at what women are subjected to during this time period. Any more points you would like to make? Also...just throwing this out there...I'm a football player, and I'm not some couch potato that sits around all day. Also, there is a reason our culture is the way it is, and that is because that is how we want it. You may deny that you have inert aggressive leanings, but you would be lying. Marge Piercy obviously does. (Report) Reply

  • Glen Shorts (2/2/2007 1:23:00 PM)

    Congrats on the Slate pub: actually you might have something useful hear - not the inhumanity thing, but a way to save humanity. As I have advocated for more than 30 years, we should be shrinking homo sapiens so our impact on the world is less. Lets try for an average height of 3' and 40 pounds by 2100 and then take it from their to 6'

    I can think of nothing so repulsive and overindulgent that a obese couch potato sheering 350# lard ass football players in a game that emulates our culture.

    Keep up the good work. go grrl ! (Report) Reply

  • Bobbie Goggins (10/22/2005 8:47:00 AM)

    I love this.
    Would like more insight on 'the hands you love to touch.'
    The bonzai tree's hands? The woman's? Both?
    Of course. (Report) Reply

Read all 6 comments »

Top Poems

  1. Phenomenal Woman
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  5. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  6. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  9. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
    Maya Angelou
  10. Invictus
    William Ernest Henley

PoemHunter.com Updates

New Poems

  1. A word in your ear, Ponniah Ganeshan
  2. Crematorium, umaprosad das
  3. Stupid Illusion, Zillur Rahman Shuvro
  4. Por Ti Soñaré, Prophmatt . . .
  5. The color of love, Zillur Rahman Shuvro
  6. Nightmare, Zillur Rahman Shuvro
  7. Love and Peace, Akhtar Jawad
  8. Waiting for someone, Zillur Rahman Shuvro
  9. Net of Death, Zillur Rahman Shuvro
  10. Man for Man, Zillur Rahman Shuvro

Poem of the Day

poet George Gordon Byron

So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart still be as loving,
And the moon still be as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
...... Read complete »

 

Modern Poem

 

Member Poem

[Hata Bildir]