A Heart Full of Rachel

Rachel Cheetham Moro 1970-2012

Yesterday, I was truly grateful and privileged to participate in Rachel’s memorial service, and to be surrounded by her friends and family. I was grateful that three other sisters in our blogosphere were able to be there with me — Sarah Horton, of Being Sarah; Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues; and Stacey, of Bringing Up Goliath. I was grateful for the tears, love, stories, laughter and sheer gratitude expressed by so many for having her in our lives. I was grateful to be able to speak about her, too, in my turn. Her husband, her beloved Anthony, kindly shared this link to some photos of Rachel throughout her too-short but amazing life: Rachel’s life in pictures.

Today, for now, my own words have run dry, but they will come again. All week, I’ve had poetry in my head, as so many of us have had and shared. And in particular, two of my favorite poems by Marge Piercy seem so aptly to describe the Rachel we all knew and valued and loved. I’d like to share them.

The first, To be of use:

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


The second, an excerpt from For Strong Women:

[…]A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other.

This entry was written by Kathi, posted on Sunday, February 12, 2012 at 04:02 pm, filed under Making A Difference and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

17 Responses to “A Heart Full of Rachel”

  1. This is simply perfect. Rachel certainly did “strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward.” She blazed the trail for so many of us to follow. I adore the line about memories pacing to & fro in boots. I’m so glad you shared these beautiful words.

  2. Thank you, Nancy.

    “…who do what has to be done, again and again…”


  3. Kathi,
    I have believed all my life that poetry is the only way to make sense of things sometimes, particularly during times of pain and loss. Your Marge Piercy poems are PERFECT. Sending you hugs.

  4. Hugs right back. Jackie. I am very much blessing all the poets I love this week.


  5. Kathi,

    These are just perfect and new to me. They capture so much of Rachel’s spirit. Thank you for sharing.



  6. CB, I discovered Marge Piercy in my days as a young feminista. She spoke for so many of us then, who were & are trying to change things, and she still does.


  7. Sometimes we rely on the words of others to comfort us. Sometimes these words of comfort can only come through poetry. Thank for sharing these, Kathi. They do seem to fit.

  8. Beautiful, Kathi. The poetry says it all. You and those other bloggesses are so privileged to have been there in person, to meet Anthony. To give tribute to an amazing woman, one of those who “strain in the mud and in the muck to move things forward.” Brava for this incredible post!

  9. Oh Kathi, I too discovered Marge Piercy in my days as a young feminista (I know that’s a contradiction in terms, but I’m definitely no day at the beach, so who cares, not me. Feminism was my waking up, even more than socialism). I remember the dangerous, revolutionary novels she wrote. And I think, along with the grief, we need a bit of revolution in us now. Rach was a one woman revolution. Maybe between all of us we can amount to as much?

  10. Dear Ronnie…no wonder Sarah married you! If we are to be correctly latin about it, I suppose the word would be ‘feministo.’ 😉
    I’ve been causing trouble all my life, and I’m definitely up for more. xoxo

    Jan, Nancy, I used to write a lot of poetry myself back in the day…I might have to look through it all again & see what I find. Love to you both.

  11. Unable to sleep and at a loss for my own words I read yours again and those poems are absolutely Rachel. It is how we all need to be now, moving things forward. Thanks for posting these, Kathi and giving me something to think about. And thank you for yesterday. I’m grateful I was able to meet you and share the day.

  12. “Strong is what we make each other.”

    I think that just sums it all up for me. I send love. I hope you will share what you spoke at Rachel’s memorial. I had to leave my house before the service was over and I saw a tweet on my phone, “Kathi is speaking now.” I HATED that I was away from a computer…..


  13. thanks so much Kathi for sharing,
    je t’embrasse

  14. Stace, I haven’t been sleeping well myself. Slept Saturday night only because I was exhausted, but before and since, not so much. Glad you were there. Hard to describe what it was like to be there…I am still speechless.

    AM, I started with notes, but I ended up winging a lot of it, just letting myself say what I needed to say. I will try to share at least the text that I wrote for myself, and I wonder if perhaps a video record will be available for those who missed the live feed. It was such a moving experience, so honest, so replete with emotion…thank you for your love.

    Cathie, merci et je t’embrasse aussi. xoxo

  15. Wow…wonderful poems…thank you and so appropriate!

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