A Work Of Artifice Poem by Marge Piercy

A Work Of Artifice

Rating: 3.5

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.

Bobbie Goggins 22 October 2005

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.

10 20 Reply
Aaron Amin 16 November 2021


13 6 Reply
Susan Williams 01 November 2015

Why do we feel such an overwhelming need to change the nature of our environment and our physical and mental self? Is it drive for some personal idea of perfection or is it a sign of power hungry control freaks?

40 6 Reply
Colleen Courtney 18 May 2014

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

8 3 Reply
Martin O'Neill 22 February 2012

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.

34 7 Reply
Anonymous Writer 29 October 2009

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.

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Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy

Detroit, Michigan
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