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Poem: "Porcelain Perceptions" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Porcelain Perceptions"
This poem came out of the August 5, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired and sponsored by laffingkat.  It also fills the "WILD CARD: linguistics" square in my Wordsmith Bingo card.

Porcelain Perceptions

When we speak,
we turn thoughts into words,
fire into air.

When we write,
we cup the words in a jar,
air into earth.

When we read,
we take the words out of the jar,
earth into fire.

The mind is clay,
made of water and earth,
a cool and supple thing
until embraced by air and fire
to become stone.

Mankind is not made of mud
but of fine clay, lucent and beautiful
as porcelain in a potter's hand.

To work with words
is to touch the mind
with skilled fingertips,
throwing porcelain
on the wheel of our time.

This is not clay that can be cut
and carved with crude knives;
it must be drawn out with utmost care
or it will collapse back in on itself.

Touch it just right,
with care and patience,
and it will open itself
into a bowl or close
into a narrow-mouthed jar,
rise into a tall pitcher
with an elegant curling handle.

Language shapes perception,
and perception shapes language,

just as the clay and the potter's hands
hold silent conversations, inspiration
becoming shape, function
manifesting in form.

This is the oldest magic,
for mud there was
before fire made it stone,
and words there were
before writing held them fast.

Old as the bones of the first ancestor
sleeping in the white and red clay,
that is how old the tradition goes,

and so when we speak,
when we write, when we read,
we remember the hands and the clay,
fire and air and earth and water and all

shaped as gently as we may
formed as truly as we might

so that our ideas become
not glass to cut each other

but stone upon which
civilization may stand
one step higher.

* * *


Porcelain comes from kaolin clay.  It can do extraordinary things, but is notoriously finicky and requires expert care.  Ironically, you can't develop the expertise to handle porcelain except by working easier clays -- but then when you switch, the porcelain behaves so differently that you have to learn all over again.

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2 comments or Leave a comment
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: August 7th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, that's beautiful! I love all the layers here, and how you've drawn out the sacred aspects. I know I'll want to return to this again and again.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 28th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that.
2 comments or Leave a comment