Two poems

During the Pottery Class Boom of 2018-19

Several weeks into ceramics class

& I have no finished work to show.

Compelled by hours of watching

time lapse seconds. Ceramicists on instagram

(the way their fingers moving into the clay assuages my anxiety somewhat) 

wheel throwing vases and bowls.

(At first I write "I still have no finished work to show"

but I am trying to remember)          I’ll never be

in these moments of failure

again, I hate doing things

I’m not good at, I hate being

bad at things I want:

to be a natural, I want things to come:

easy but can’t it

be sort of nice? Being

so demonstrably novice at something,        so beginner

bad? I tell myself: you only have room.

Every next time you’ll feel differently. Now,

I feel the layers of wet

clay cover both my whole hands because it is all

so effortful.

Once clay is fired in the kiln its molecular structure fundamentally changes.

Fired ceramics, the instructor says, will last 10,000 years

or until it is broken whichever comes

first—you, the instructor tells me, need to work on centering

the clay, the first step is centering.

On the wheel I’ve been rushing

when I start I begin

shaping the clay and, uncentered, it fights

me, becomes uneven and lopsided, tears.

Why do I feel this when the clay does not

rush for the next step, the pressure of


In the final class the instructor says it’s all about

showing the clay who’s boss

make it submit

so that it will do what you want

under your hands, the drying.

As I walk home, a woman—

with her mother and baby,

tiny legs dangle from her chest

—looks up from her phone as if preparing

to cross the street and her mother

lifts an arm.

                        The crossing signal is still a red hand,

her arm lingers near

her daughter’s thigh for only a second before it lowers.

                        The woman hasn’t moved.

Maybe someday something will come to me

                        as naturally as my mother’s arm does.

Work on centering.


your life opens and you must accept what’s inside.

tell me if stranger and estranged are two points both equidistant from lover

the sidewalk’s open pores 
glow pink with the sky

in a previous life water

here my body lies 
longer than puddles

do make of this sheen a mirror

beside me the parking lot touches
a choir singing to row after empty row 

of chairs for posterity left unfolded 

once, droplets of rain held
in your eyelashes 

this, too, a river

by the time our clothes dried 
we were soaked through

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