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By Grace Paley

This is about the women of that country
Sometimes they spoke in slogans
They said
       We patch the roads as we patch our sweetheart’s trousers   
       The heart will stop but not the transport
They said
       We have ensured production even near bomb craters   
       Children let your voices sing higher than the explosions
                                                    of the bombs
They said
       We have important tasks to teach the children
       that the people are the collective masters
       to bear hardship
       to instill love in the family
       to guide the good health of the children (they must
       wear clothing according to climate)
They said
       Once men beat their wives
       now they may not
       Once a poor family sold its daughter to a rich old man   
       now the young may love one another
They said
       Once we planted our rice any old way
       now we plant the young shoots in straight rows
       so the imperialist pilot can see how steady our
       hands are


In the evening we walked along the shores of the Lake   
                                                of the Restored Sword


I said   is it true?   we are sisters?   
They said   Yes, we are of one family


Grace Paley, “That Country” from Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley. Copyright © 1999 by Grace Paley. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved.

Source: Begin Again: The Collected Poems of Grace Paley (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2000)

  • Relationships
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Grace Paley
Grace Paley was one of the most accomplished and politically active figures of the past fifty years. Born in the Bronx, she studied under W.H. Auden, though she never graduated from college. She married in 1942, had two children, and was separated within ten years. This separation caused her to return to writing and in 1959 she published her first short story collection. Though she did not publish another collection until 1974, her reputation grew, not least because of her activism with groups such as the War Resisters' League and Woman's Pentagon Action. Though known mostly for her stories, she published three collections of poetry, which often contain the humor and economy of language that mark her prose. See More By This Poet

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