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Tuesday, March 3

finally, Marge

Marge Piercy went to college with me.Not literally, of course, but her writings taught me about being a woman, an activist, a lover of cats and rain. She gave voice to my fears of what womanhood meant and raised a flag to it, she did not cower. She snarled and purred and chanted about sex and love and loss and periods and the heartless and Janis Joplin. And sometimes she made me smile or laugh out loud. I wanted to be the characters in her books because then we would know each other.

 In my mind she has always looked as she did on her book jackets. Full, lush, a heavy fall of jet black hair and a look of amused irony on her face. I wondered what she would look like now, approaching 80 and I pictured her with heavy fall of white hair, all other things intact. And so it was that when the lady in the front row rose after the intro, I was uncertain. I had noticed her because her jet black hair was so obviously dyed and you could see her scalp through the thinner hair on her crown. When she got up it was slowly, and she walked to the stairs and it broke my heart to know that, yes, this was Marge, and she could barely make the stairs.

 The podium almost dwarfed her, she is a short but not small woman and she read the note on the mike that advised to not adjust it, the sound man would make sure she was heard and the audience chuckled. She held up her new book, she was just seeing it for the first time and her delight in it was real "this is my most beautiful book". Without preamble, she read her first poem and I knew she was still Marge, finally in the same room with me, still able to bring tears with memories of her tough childhood, her cold mother, the pain women inflict upon themselves, the casualties of ill gotten war.

She brought laughs with her poems about how to survive a blizzard. She was luminous, funny, real. And I loved her.

 I was 2nd in line to have my book signed. She fumbled about with the woman first in line, calling for her pens, perplexed when the woman didn't need to have her name in the autograph "are you sure? is it for you?" She seemed, sadly to be, again, the elderly woman with the bad hair in the front row and not the engaging, brilliant woman at the podium. I smiled at her, told her my name was Pat. Cat? Many people think that. No, I said and spelled it. We chuckled. She first wrote "from Pat" and then scribbled it out to read "to Pat" and the rest is pretty much illegible. I wanted to tell her that she brought my womanhood into focus, that she created heroes for me, that her words have always moved me, that I have red almost everything she has written, that she influenced my life, who I became. But I just looked into her eyes and said "Thank You" and she smiled back into mine and said "you are very welcome". It is enough. It is more than enough. I held the book to my heart and walked out into the cold.