From Giving it Up to the Wind
We rigged our kite
just west of 4th Street that windy morning, launching
our dream out of snag’s way above a single line of trees.
I manned the pegged-down reel until it took
someone three times my weight to pay out line
gone taut enough to lift the spaniel
puzzling round our feet. The war-born cord
drooped of its own weight let out yard by yard,
tethering our fun to where we stood, guiding our eyes
out to the speck distance was beginning to digest…
We were sharing our last shift
at the kiln, when the shoebox
from Cupertino arrived
packed with them among ferns.
Oblate and aromatic, they were
orange as oranges, and stippled
like worn-out footballs.
Our thumbs cruised their rinds
before squeezing, and bruising
the insides until they felt like
warm leather grapes.
Only then were they fit to take in,
lolling from cheek to cheek,
squeaking against teeth…
From A January Ladybug
I have company this evening – a black spotted
orange ladybug. How can its tidbit legs
and hidden toes cling to the computer screen?
It busies itself, whirling round and round
on the glass above the word font.
What takes its wee eye in, one millimeter
above the word Palatino? Now it scoots over
the self-important capital A atop its bright green base….
How 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.
(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 Museum
The curator alone has the huge brass key
to the earthenware treasure-room,
and can’t 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 memory’s 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 man’s arm, it was.