The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Available Light” is an autobiographical meditation in free verse. It consists of eleven six-line stanzas. Each of the first five of these stanzas has a definitive ending. However, the last six stanzas are paired: In each case, the first stanza ends in mid-sentence, unpunctuated, and the thought moves without a pause into the second. The final stanza ends with two lines that sum up all that has gone before. Though the title is a term taken from photography, it is meant to be a play on words: It is not visualized reality but the development of her own inner vision that Marge Piercy will be describing. A mature woman, she is looking back over her life in order to understand the person she has become.

“Available Light” begins in the present. In middle age, the poet asserts, sexual appetites are both “rampant” and “allowed,” and she is as filled with desire as nature itself. In the second stanza, the poet moves to another favorite activity, her four-mile morning walks. However, in this stanza she also introduces the theme of self-knowledge: “I know myself,” she begins the stanza, but she later modifies this statement by explaining that she also knows that her knowledge is imperfect. The poem, then, will shed some light on her past and on herself, but only the light that is “available.”

In the third stanza, Piercy moves into the past, recalling scenes from four different times in her life, the last when she was twenty-four....

(The entire section is 530 words.)