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Poetry Of Pottery

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If you have never come across this, I hope you enjoy it:


Marvin Bell


I can tell you about this because I have held in my hand

the little potter’s sponge called an “elephant ear".

Naturally, it’s only a tiny version of an ear,

but it’s the thing you want to pick up out of the toolbox

when you wander into the deserted ceramics shop

down the street from the cave where the fortune-teller works.

Drawn by stones, by earth, by things that have been in the fire.

The elephant ear listens to the side of the vase

as it is pulled upwards from a dome of muddy clay.

The ear listens to outside wall of the pot

and the hand listens to the inside wall of the pot,

and between them a city rises out of dirt and water.

Inside this city live the remains of animals,

animals who prepare for two hundred years to be clay.

Rodents make clay, and men wearing spectacles make clay,

though the papers they were singing go up in flames

and nothing more is known of these long documents

except by those angels who divine in our ashes.

Kings and queens of the jungle make clay

and royalty and politicians make clay although

their innocence stays with their clothes until unraveled.

There is a lost soldier in every ceramic bowl.

The face on the dinner plate breaks when the dish does

and lies for centuries unassembled in the soil.

These things that have the right substance to begin with,

put into the fire at temperatures that melt glass,

keep their fingerprints forever, it is said,

like inky sponges that walk away in the deep water.

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