So I went down to the potter’s house,
and I saw [her] working at the wheel.
Coming in from the wind, disheveled, we cluster
like commas around the woman at the wheel.
Her foot moves up and down, hands cup the clay,
centering, altering, coaxing it upward. We grow alert
as exclamation points. The matter in the potter’s hand
gains shape: a bowl, lip like a wing, round belly.
Parenthetic fingers cradle the emerging form,
emending it to match the brain’s vision.
object, as we watch, collapses in her hands.
With one swift move she scoops it up, squashes it,
a mundane blob of clay. She doesn’t say: That’s it. Period.
To the question marks surrounding her, she says
she’ll rescue that smashed lump tomorrow,
rises, unties the denim apron stained with a residue
of clay, rinses her hands, waves us to the table.
Tea is poured into mugs she has made.
Oatmeal raisin cookies, lemon drops. We eat
and leave a scattering of crumbs to punctuate
the lucent pearl-blue glaze of a perfect plate
that only yesterday our gracious potter
pulled with lacerated hands
from the fire.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.