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
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
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.
“BE(!), BE, be careful with ripping them boards. Don’t get lazy with them things.
They are not PREtend.”
Said the man leaning against
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
She picks the pig,
And I pick a face jug—I forget which one now.