Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The dichotomies in imagery are so important in “Available Light” because the real subject of the poem is the search for a harmonious life. At fifty, Piercy is learning how to accept the past, the present, the future, and her own limitations. Admittedly, much of what she remembers from the past is a jumble of impressions such as the clipper ship and the radio broadcast. However, there are also old conflicts that Piercy now has the courage and the wisdom to resolve. Since she now knows that she will never know or understand everything, she can forgive her dead parents for living by “their own squinty light,” much as she realizes she must do.

Piercy has suggested to interviewers that one of her parents’ omissions actually worked to her benefit. Probably because only her mother was Jewish, as a child Piercy was exposed to Judaism just enough to capture her interest but not enough to make her rebellious. The fact that she is learning Hebrew of her own volition indicates the degree to which the poet has accepted her Jewish heritage. Judaism also saved Piercy from building her expectations of life on a simplistic faith such as those that her friends have chosen. As a person who feels strongly about right and wrong, Piercy could have become committed to an easy answer with which she would have become disillusioned in time. Fortunately, she has a God who, rather than promising miracles, promises only that life is hard and that morality, though expected,...

(The entire section is 517 words.)