Sometimes the throwing works
and the clays are subdued
into an almost pleasant shape.
Even the glazes eventually obey my command.
It’s the painting that fails (that great art one sees
on Ming bowls). For I’m really clumsy,
an oaf with thumbs, a producer
of lines that are thick, irregularly irregular. Then the glaze drips
down, like a weary eyelid, denigrating whatever bright efforts
I had imagined: covering cows
that now looks like dogs, which are baying at a moon
that is similarly submerged beneath a purple sheen.
In this class, at the New Jersey Center for the Arts,
where I am supposed to be learning how to pot,
the instructor really tries.
He tries to ignore this mess that I’m making.
It is as if he has positioned a camera obscura
between himself and my incompetence
in order to still the anxiety he must feel about it.
But sometimes he can’t stand it any more,
and he comes over, needs to help to allay that feeling.
One touch. That’s all it takes; and in an instant
there’s a bowl where before there wasn’t.
It is like I was mangling his cousin.
I don’t really want him to do it, to help,
to redirect my pedestrian efforts;
but he is so into clay
that it gives him the heebie-jeebies
to see it out of shape; so I let him
do what he can do, without even thinking, and I say, “Thank you, Tom,”
and he says, “There, you’ve saved it.”,
and I really think
that that’s what he thinks.
But then I go mess it up anyway
when I try to paint
another cow with the glaze.