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
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
Annina Zheng-Hardy is a Sichuanese-American writer in London and @anneenzh.