In Praise of Joe by Marge Piercy

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

, Marge Piercy tells us that although coffee is disgusting at times, she can’t function without it. She starts by talking about how she prefers it hot but will drink it iced, tepid, or rancid from a vending machine if necessary.

She compares its blackness to that of bark from an apple tree or swamp water, perceiving its richness as that of tannin, a substance of plant origin used for tanning and in medicine. The scent of coffee, rising like steam, kicks her brain into gear.

She talks about drinking it in coffee bars or out of thermoses or in cars or stadiums or on a beach, explaining how it goes off in her head like a siren in the morning and radiates throughout her body. It doesn’t matter whether it’s latte or cappuccino. Coffee keeps her moving.

She explains what her life would be like without it. She wouldn’t be able to get up in the morning. She would continually press the snooze button and creep through her days. Coffee stimulates her speech and makes her feel human every day. In her last line, she emphasizes the idea that the inky blackness of coffee fuels her writing.


Note: Because of copyright concerns, I cannot post this poem here. You can read it on Your Daily Poem.


Your Turn


I triple dog dare you to take some time to explicate your favorite poem the way I did above. Read the poem a time or two and write down what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Like a detective, gather facts. Then compile your ideas into a cohesive review. If you do this on your own blog, please leave a pingback here so I can read it. Good luck. Thanks to Lynda McKinney Lambert and dandeliondiadem for inspiring this.


My Books


My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

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Poetry that Influenced Me

In a recent post, I mentioned a correspondence course I was taking from the Hadley Institute. I’m now pleased to announce that I’ve passed the course with an A Plus. For our last assignment, I was instructed to pick three poems, write about them, then compose a poem in the style of one of the poems I picked.

My three chosen poems are: “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” by Francesco Marciuliano, “The Lanyard by Billie Collins, and “In Praise of Joe” by Marge Piercy. “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” comes from I Could Chew on This, a collection of poems that tell stories from a dog’s point of view. This poem provides a humorous look at what can happen when a dog is left at home, reminding me so much of the Irish setter we had when I was a teen-ager. Marciuliano tells this story in one stanza with many short lines.

In “The Lanyard,” Billie Collins tells his story in a different way. Using several stanzas with many short lines, he shares a memory of creating a lanyard for his mother when he was a boy at summer camp. He starts in the present. Apparently bored, he’s thumbing through a dictionary when he finds the word lanyard, and that gets him to reminiscing. You can click below to hear the author read this poem.


Marge Piercy uses many stanzas containing several short lines, but in this case, she’s not telling a story. She’s describing the many ways she drinks coffee and extolling its virtues. It inspired me to write a poem about Dr. Pepper, which appears in my own collection, How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

Now here’s a poem I wrote in the style of “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House” and other poems in Francesco Marciuliano’s collection. It was also inspired by a visit to my brother in Florida, who has two dogs, and by something I see every day while walking. You can click below to hear me read it.


Four Ways a Dog Looks at Life




I’m too outspoken

so must wear a special collar

during the day while no one’s home.

When I alert the empty house,

it vibrates against my throat,

feels weird, sometimes uncomfortable,

causing me to whine

when I speak my mind.

Life is “ruff.”



“Turkey muffin, turkey muffin,”

you squeak, as my leash clicks into place.

What’s a turkey muffin, anyway?

It doesn’t sound nearly as appealing

as that rotten fish head in the alley.

Now that’s what I want.




Oh, you’re hungry?

You don’t live here,

so you don’t know where anything is.

You don’t see very well, huh?

Well, how about some potato chips?

I know where they are,

in the pantry. Open this door.

They’re right here on the floor.

Now here’s one for you, five for me,

one for you, ten for me,

one for you, twenty for me,

one for you, forty for me.

Oh, the bag’s empty.

Just throw it away.

They’ll think you ate all the chips. Ha ha.




What’s that on the other side of the fence?

A white stick it is,

rolling along the pavement.

A human pushes it.

I want to chase it.

I bark and bark and bark,

leap in the air many times,

try to fly over the fence.

I’m ignored.

Human and stick walk and roll away.


Have any poems ever influenced you? Please tell me about them in the comment field. I leave you now with the hope that someday, you can read a pile of perfect poems.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

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