Thursday, January 31, 2013

Art Is What Remains


"Art is what remains when the pot is broken."               
—Chinese proverb  

I know we are bound to the earth,
and the cracked heart, old terra cotta,
surrenders to vine.                                           

                  Listen—I've seen
wind stir the hair of the dead at Belsen,
growing like art from the lacing grass; 

what is terrible, even, rises.
The ruined pot dreams of ignition,
each molecule coddles its flame. 

Enough alphabet for a torah
sits on the tongue.  And all shards
from the winds' end gather again. 

I know we are bound to the earth
by desire's green thread
or the milk snake's slippery pass. 

Hepatica splits now from its leaf-wing.
Out of the vessel's wreck,
inwardness forms on the air 

and that ghost tenderly enters
the soul of some mortal thing.

—Mary Rose O’Reilley
This poem by my newly discovered writer friend (if I’m not being too presumptuous, feeling such an affinity with her) makes me think of Sue Bender’s wonderful book, Everyday Sacred, and the begging bowls she writes about, her description of a “strikingly handsome Japanese tea bowl that had been broken and pieced together. The image of that bowl made a lasting impression. Instead of trying to hide the flaws, the cracks were emphasized—filled with silver. The bowl was even more precious after it had been mended.”

I am thinking of flawed things today, lives with cracks in them, or clean bowls splashed with blue, and feeling against cold logic that the flaws and cracks and splashes only improve them, over time.  That is my optimism for the new month, for the year of the snake (slipping so easily between all cracks).

Ethiopian flowerpot, A. Davey
bowl with blue splashes, Haa900

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