Trying by Nancy Pagh

This is the poem and quote I’ve been using this week in writing circles.  This lovely poem has been  responsible for great discussions on taking risks, fathers, and more.  Wonderful writing in response as well to the quote below from Sheryl Sandberg and how it is to be a woman in the world.

If you ask men why they did a good job, they’ll say, ‘I’m awesome. Obviously. Why are you even asking?’ If you ask women why they did a good job, what they’ll say is someone helped them, they got lucky, they worked really hard.                        Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

Trying                                                                                                 Nancy Pagh

The people I love best are the ones who try: the aged

who rise early each morning and part the clump of coffee filters

with arthritic fingers—and the others who stay up

late after working all day in retail, hot pink curl of ear

pressing the receiver, listening to the friend who is selfish

but in agony now. I love the men who are fathers

to children, not buddies not video-game rivals not boys

themselves but clumsy men who ache over the fragility of sons,

but preserve the fragility of sons despite what everyone says.

I love those who feel no skill has come to them innate,

who will hold their small inland dogs again and again

above the sea on vacation, to watch in amazement

the knowing animal body that paddles through air. I love

the B+ student. The thick-chinned girl always picked

fourth when choosing sides for the softball team.

The lover who says it first. The lover who says it second

after a long, long pause. The lover who says it knowing

the answer is no, no, I am too broken. People who knit

things together. People willing to take things apart

and roll all the strands of yarn into new balls for the next time.

The woman who loaded her backseat full of blankets and drove

for three days to the hurricane site.  Even the loafer who tries

his mother’s patience, who quietly speculates and eventually

decodes the universe for us all. Believe me, I have tried

to love others, the meager personalities who charm and butter,

the jaded the cynics the players and floaters all safe

in their cages, this life no responsibility they can own.

They see it too—how trying is always a risk,

a kind of vulnerability some choose for ourselves because

our fathers taught us well, our fathers taught us to try

to remain as fragile and full as this world that loves us.

The author of the poem wrote “Trying” as a response to the poem, “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy.  I found the poem in The Pen and the Bell, Mindful Writing in a Busy World by Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes. Nancy Pagh wrote her poem as a response to “To Be of Use” by Marge Piercy


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