August 2, 2009

The Little Black Pot

The Little Black Pot
Little black pot
embraced by a bear
smoothed into being
by hands warmed in the sweat of the sun
Generation to generation
folded their earthen coils
onto hollow clay
shaping them into vessels
that held the breath of their ancestors
Shaman’s airs created languorous notes
that could not leave the hollows of their heads
Makers of bowls
pressed into existence by hands
widened by what they held
Creators of twin jars
that howled with the waters
flowing through the conduits
that inextricably bound them
Parched lips touched red earth
polished by the round stones
that once tumbled in the bellies of dinosaurs
on their antediluvian journeys
The sojourn of the soul
scratched out a white line
a time line that meandered
across the black and brown clouds
hovering over burned earth
around and around
the world of a polished vessel
Generation to generation
hands rubbed their essence into clay
oil of the flesh
eased its way into the little black pots
Turning, turning
Hand held vessels
blackened by smoke and fire which consumed the air
beneath a nest of gnarled branches and the dung of animals
Hands caressed the surface that soothed the heart
and wiped away the pain of feeling less than yet being more than
a little black pot

The experience of learning a different art form can sometimes have welcome benefits to one’s own art. The course in Tewa pottery I completed at Common Ground on the Hill caused me to revise one of the poems in my book manuscript, Moments in Light and Shadows. I had painted a small canvas from a sketch I made of Kathy (Wan Povi) a year ago and later composed the poem to accompany the painting. The painting and poem are in the chapter of the book called Journeys, which contain images and texts relating to quests for knowledge and understanding. The search is either literal, in the form of people depicted on pathways, or spiritual, in a subject’s exploration of a personal past and aspirations for the future.
There is nothing quite like empirical knowledge as a source for enriching writing or any other art form. After being exposed to the physical process of making the black pottery that I depicted a year ago in the painting and poetry, I was able to revise in such a way as to insert some quirky gems about the process involved in the making of Tewa pottery - such as the use of stones from the digestive systems of dinosaurs for burnishing vessels. The very last line of the poem "... the pain of feeling less than, yet being more than a little black pot," is a somber way to end the verse this time around. It refers to a brief mention during my class about Kathy’s work with women who have been victims of domestic violence, some of who were also creators of blackware pottery. It occured to me in rewriting that the burnishing of these vessels was a way of rubbing out the pain of feeling like an empty vessel or being used as a receptacle for another’s fear and anger. "Yet being more than" offers, however, a ray of hope in the recognition that despite how it is used, there is an intrinsic value to a person’s life that can be grasped and realized by the self.

No comments: