Poetry Thursday: Of service

fishmonger holding high two lobsters

Virgo is
the sign of service
visualized as
a maiden
in a flowing robe,
hair up or down,
bearing grain.

Not a lion,
not a bull
not a ram.
Not a hottie
hoisting a vat of water
to his massive shoulder
with his studly arms.

Not a sharpshooter,
a skilled, sought-after professional,
never mind the hairy knees and hooves,
not a pair of enigmatic twins or Escher-y fishes
not even a goat
or a crab
or an inanimate fucking object of weights and measures:

Oh, no.
A lone shiksa
who has never met the high, hard one
fondling a shaft
of wheat,
that’s my lot.

I hated being a Virgo
like I hated being not old enough
or tall enough
or smart
or pretty
or funny
or fast enough
to be anything
but altogether unexceptional.

I hated my sign
that started with “V”
and ended with nobody getting laid
like I hated the black watch plaid
I wore every day
for eight years
that made me look just like
everyone else,
only somehow, never as cool
as the girls with the good signs,
the Leos, the Taurans,
the goddamn Capricorns,
all of whom most assuredly
were relieved of their virginity
before they were 19
and had to beg someone.

Do you know who serves?

and burger-flippers;
stockboys and bus drivers.
Practicing alcoholics
spinning condo-closeout arrows
on the corner
or hawking Caesar salad specials
in a chicken suit.
counting out other people’s money,
and actors, when they can’t get work
as actors,
and overeducated foreign nationals
and undereducated dropouts
all clinging to their last shred of dignity
doing jobs too low even to be beneath them.

People with no other choice
choose service,
don’t they?

Yes. They do.
They do.
And the luckiest of them,
I see now,
embrace it.

They stoop to wash the dusty feet
of strangers,
to set the broken arms
of girls who slide off the monkey bars,
to pour themselves onto the page
again and again
so that this time,
that someone whose heart has barely a hairline crack running across it
can finally start feeling the light pour in.

They bend and contort themselves
to make pastafazool and music.
They bear with patience
the slow, slow uptake
of mathematics
in adolescent crania
and self-knowledge
in the shattered heart.
They give and give and give
of their time and their talent,
and their sweat and their soul
sometimes for little,
but never, never for nothing.

decades later,
but not too late,
I see that what is truly true:
that to love
is to serve.
And so now,
as then,
I choose to serve
because I cannot choose otherwise.

I must live in service
of that which I’ve been given:
my broom,
my brain,
my pen,
my heart.
I must push them
to and fro
to and fro
to and fro
every day
of every week
that they are in my custody.

I must live to serve,
because now I finally see
what is truly true:
that I must serve
to truly live.


Image by Charbel Akhras via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. Holy shit Colleen….wow. You took the breath out of my lungs and the words out of my mouth with this one.

    Taurean Jenn (who did NOT lose her virginity before 19 thank you very much)

  2. Wow. Awesome. With everything you have to deal with healthwise, you can still rip words like these out of your brain? You are of a different species than I, fellow Virgo.

    BTW, I copped myself a copy of “The War of Art” on your recce, and I’m very glad I did so.

    Sidenote/obligatory laugh: I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 21 … on the other hand, I still have the box it came in.

  3. OK, I’ve somehow written and deleted 2 comments. They were awesome and meaningful, but I’m all out of that stuff now. So. Love your poem. Makes this promiscuous water bearer appreciate her sweet, steady Virgo friends even more.

  4. “to pour themselves onto the page
    again and again
    so that this time,
    that someone whose heart has barely a hairline crack running across it
    can finally start feeling the light pour in.” Spankin…wow. This line really got to me, even though I’m a Scorpio.

  5. Thank you, all! This was one I had stewing for a while—come back and noodle, come back and noodle. Happy to know the noodling worked. (Of course, I recognize there’s a possibility that it didn’t, but if all y’all had seen the original…well, let’s just say I think I’m safe in this assessment!)

  6. Virgo=virgin=“nobody gets laid” ?
    I read somewhere(!) that’s a very old mis-translation ~ in the original Greek, “virgin” means “independent; whole and complete unto oneself; not the possession of another” – somehow, the nuns never told us about that, did they?

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