Art and Craft

Charles Lisk Piggy Bank (Top View)

Her left hand is in mine as we

Are awkward and in a

Slow-motion dodge and weave

Through what the kiln delivered

now set in loose rows

on the sparse grass lawn

under the nine-thirty a.m.

white oak trees

behind the white house.

E runs her right index finger around the mouth of a big brown pot

With four lug handles.

She can reach the rim without bending over much.

She is inspecting that one with the touch of her child elegant fingers—

Tiny, long, cartilage fingers–

While she looks over the clay piggy bank (with a 2” coin slot

cut into his back) ten feet away.

It is an 8” clay jug sideways on

Clay feet,

Listening through clay ears.

E admires his swirl tail, which is made of

A coil of clay.

He has a rough, thick cork stuck in his mouth.

“Do I have to give you my number if I get a better one than you?” she says,

Assessing her chances.

“You get to choose what you do,” I say.

“I’d give it to you, Daddy.”

“What one would you choose if you could have any one?”

“The Pig or the one you tell me you like best.”

CL, the potter,

Reaches out a 12” wide mouth

Jar full of folded slips of paper.

The crowd has been closing in on him

Since he started a move toward the center.

He has already explained the rules of the lottery.

The jar with the numbers is rich brown,

Somehow imperfect enough to have won

This practical task when all it’s more perfect kin

Will only ever sit on shelves,

or on the floor beneath side tables,

or on top of a sideboard,

or in a moving box still taped,

or catching rainwater on the patio.

 This makes me wonder about distinctions we make between

Art and craft.

I don’t know, and feel as if I should, everything about the difference.

When I was twenty I worked for a while ripping boards to make beds.

The wood was not good—it would

Kick, warp, and scream off the 12” open blade.

At night in my dreams my thumbs would get torn off,

Pulled toward the blur of sleep and that blade, but

Awake and pushing the 10’ boards,

I could feel myself forgetting

The truth of the thing—

Danger held within the high whine of the saw—

So fast that it ceased to be a thing and became only an idea.

You can’t lose your thumbs to an idea, can you?

Philosophy never really killed anyone.

Poetry never really stuck a shiv in anyone’s back—not really.

Profuse internal hemorrhaging

Never really happened as a result of memorizing a sonnet

Like “Read in my face a volume of Despairs/The

Wailing Illiads of my prevailing woe.”

(That dude might be crying a river but he hasn’t lost so much as a digit!)

The warping made my predicament deceptive—

My thumbs seemed to float on the wood

(On the waves, adrift)

As I pushed it on through.

Now I was just a minimum wage guy—a temporary worker.

That shop near TN Hwy 64

Had a couple of master carpenters—

Guys creating intricate inlayed

Tables, bookcases.

Not one bit of their jobs involved ripping anything.

They measured time by projects and in months.

Their imaginations were inflamed with

Designs and plans and wood combinations.

I would go out back with them when they took breaks for tobacco.

One man sat on a railroad tie, one leaned against a truck,

I stood scratching at the gravel with my boot.

“Be careful, my man.” I didn’t hear clearly.

“What’s that?”

“BE(!), BE, be careful with ripping them boards. Don’t get lazy with them things.

They are not PREtend.”

Said the man leaning against

The Pick-up.

He held up his hand—almost a full set…nine.

Railroad tie man, relishing good date

Copenhagen before returning to his task

(An order of church pews),

Held up his hands too.


They both had their thumbs though.

CL is patient as E feels

Into the pot for her slip of paper.

As it turns out,

Though my number is OK,

She picks a better one–

Holding it out to show me

With those fingers.

She keeps looking to make sure it is

What she thinks

And perhaps to make sure it doesn’t change

Or disappear.

She picks the pig,

And I pick a face jug—I forget which one now.

Copyright 2012

3 thoughts on “Art and Craft

  1. Bo Adams February 22, 2012 / 5:04 am

    What a surprise this morning as I made time again to dig into some blogs. The rhythm and imagery of your piece are powerful and caused me to lose time a bit this early morning. The anticipation is palpable in and between the lines. Of course, I am overly attuned to using anything as a metaphor for education and schooling, but this piece is so rich with analogy. May we all create the anticipation of the lottery in our learning spaces. May we think carefully about the saws we wield as we rip wholes into slat-sized parts.

  2. Bartley Griffith February 22, 2012 / 8:32 pm

    “She picks the pig,
    And I pick a face jug—I forget which one now.”

    Fatherhood is the joy of picking second. Thanks for sharing, Ross.

  3. Jen Dracos-Tice March 21, 2012 / 4:19 pm

    My grandfather logged in Western NC before WWII; your poem made me remember him and his tree-branch-thick forearms. He had the gentlest touch for me. I get that sense from your poem, too…that tension or perhaps that reconciliation between craft and art within ourselves. Thanks for sharing this one, as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s