my life with ceramics - by Margi Mitcalfe

my life with ceramics

by Margi Mitcalfe


in the shrine of the kiln,

glazes of weka feather

rangitikei river bed

peppermint licorice

houhere flower

desert road kanuka twig streaked with snow

dad’s lumpy porridge

Ohakune midnight

taupata berry orange

blackbird’s back

spinifex-inscribed dune

and the crackled beads of redcurrant and tamarillo

are blasted so richly I shiver


it’s the fire in pottery that most scares me

but there is fire in bread


and when my lover spins my wheel, stirs my pot

she feeds the flame in me


my mother’s is the body that turned me

hers the vessel, the vase I became from


what this potter makes with earth and water, fire and air

pigments and care

breaks into sharp hard shards

will shatter when dropped

chip because someone knocked it


sun spots splattering my skin

as lichens quilt bark

time will choose me


and this body that held me centrifugally

glazed with clothes with raiments

will fold into the earth

fall into the fire




breathing holes


the earth is much bigger than this bowl

whose luminous surface is smaller than the midnight sky


yet as your eyes walk the rim of the bowl this potter’s hands have made

you see every ocean you’ve loved, every mountain you’ve admired


as your gaze dives and slides over shiny sided slopes

you breathe the space within the bowl, the air the bowl holds


before then, dwelling within the particles that are making the bowl

your mind finds spaces, the nothing in everything

the ashes of dying stars cooling, the bowl the air holds, cooling


where the outer upper edge of the bowl meets its horizon, its shore,

your held breath can be released again or all breathing stops --

exhaltation of the nothing in everything, the everything we share


whose inscriptions are random or designed

as spinifex, driftwood, gull prints on winter sand

as rain-dance, snow-streak, mist-haze on mountain range




shallow bowls’ grace


so shallow

they lie as ears to the ground



the colour of thrushes’ chests


open-palmed they hold enough

for easter for matariki for christmas

for every special birthday


for everyone for everyone for everyone