Contest Winner

Working People's Poetry Competition


The Unfinished Masterpiece

My parents bought a swaybacked
summer cottage on a weedy lake
an hour out of Detroit -- an area
now suburban tract houses.

My father began by installing plumbing
a bathroom instead of an outhouse,
running water in the kitchen
instead of a pump, although

not being the cook, I loved
pumping water and having
it magically surge from under
ground cold as winter on my hands.

But he never stopped. Until
the day they sold it, twenty-five
years later, it was a construction
site, walls torn down and rebuilt

the roof replaced and shingled
again, porches coming and going.
In the kind of speeded-up photo-
graphy they use to show flowers

opening, this original shack
without real internal walls,
just partitions, would have grown
and shrunk again before our eyes
madly tossing parts into the wind.

it was like the electric train set he played
with in the basement, adding a village
a bridge, a switchman with a lantern:

it was his toy, a place where he
was master instead of worker --
where what he imagined grew
solid under his knowing hands.

              Marge Piercy

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