Homing InHow could we have known,
in the mid 1940s when she took
mine in hers, saying, Such hands!
Someday you may do something wonderful with these.
Nothing, mother, more wonderful than
this porcelain jar the height of my stretched hand
to hold your dust.
This memory kicks my turning wheel,
and I project my center on the clay that centers me.
My thumbs plunge toward the wheelhead
the way deep waters magnetize a dowser's rod.
I muscle up an 8 pound ball of planet to a jar.
I draw walls up, stretch them until
they make a womb-space, for your ash to fill.
I shape this void for you
in whose inner space I grew.
Three months before my birth
I thrived in such a shape as this, and now
I've been at potting more than half my life.
Each one I've thrown informs
this fresh and final one for you.
Nearing sixty, I home in
on the flywheel's silent bearing underfoot.
The axis of my turning wheel is still,
and yet runs true, running true.
Conversions(for my students)
This winter the birds ate nearly sixty pounds of suet.
Most days at noon I watched them peck
and then convert a phantom steer's insides
to flight, to feathered warmth
a winter's night could not snuff out.
Then I drove to class and showed you
how to shape energy with a potter's wheel.
Torquing our planet's flesh, lump after lump,
into cups and bowls by the dozens,
we gave them once and forever,
form, color, fire-memory.
Can you feel in a teacup's heat
that friction of change?
The combustion of one thing becoming another?
In a Certain Lithuanian MuseumThe curator alone has the huge brass key
to the earthenware treasure-room,
and canít wait to hand you cup
after bowl after plate festooned
so fussily with vines and flowers.
His excitement makes it easy
for you to seem equally thrilled,
but years later, the pottery is on the dark side
of memoryís locked door. It is the relic
helmet in a stairway alcove
that haunts, glowing in remembrance-light.
You had to go back to be sure, yes,
it had lain inclined to the sun
so a seedling grew through one
of the bullet-holes, expanding steel
ten, twenty, thirty three years
someone had written on a card
beside the sawed-off billet.
Big around as a young manís arm, it was.