The Pottery Jar.
Thank you for asking me not to smoke, thank you for the extra ten
minutes no charge. Thank you for knowing the smoke that seeped beneath
the heavy gray apartment door was war poison from afar. Thank you for
your chic haircut --every therapist should have one. Thank you for not
condescending to that Navy man who had such bad Depression-era karma he
secured the soles of his shoes with rubber bands and the farm girl who
leapt from reading books behind the barn into her Book of Life. Chapter
Two: Post War, in which the wounded Navy boy threw his farm girl down
the cellar stairs.
Thank you for your posture, bolt upright, when I was so mad I declared
I could break the antique pottery jar on your shelf.
Chapter One: War. It's always backward in analysis, isn't it?
Thank you for reading my injured mother who aided a game her child
played-- wherein the little girl walked with a cane, bandaged from head
to toe in sheets torn up for kitchen rags.
Thank you for warning me on the phone that now you'd be walking
with a cane.
Thank you for not believing me when I said I was suicidal (my Dad had
died and evaporated into smoke --that rageful man, yes, slowly I
admitted I had half his genes--bomb-vaporous beneath the heavy gray
How could you take her seriously, a young woman living alone from
paycheck to paycheck in a studio on the Upper East Side rehearsing
Sylvia Plath: She opens the stove, crouches down on the floor, and stops
before she rests her head on the oven door to think How sticky this is!
Thank you for waiting decades for her to acquire a sense of humor as
well as better clothes.
After I declared I'd break the gray jar with navy blue patterns,
after your posture, bolt upright in your chair-- you said, 'You
!" (What if the farm girl on the cellar stairs had shouted
<B>YOU WILL NOT?)</B> When I reached for that dishtowel to
lay on the oven door, practicing my mini-death in response to
Daddy's falling, then positioned my head on the checkered terry
cloth, I must have thought You will not.
Thank you for addressing me as "Honey." Thank you for carrying
me when I had no money.
Thank you for waving goodbye as that young woman set off to cohabit with
a man who wore a bathrobe till five in the afternoon and smelled of
Balkan Sobranies, and thank you for the welcome back. Thank you for your
applause as she changed the locks and the password to the bank account,
for now she had a bank account.
Thank you for filling the pottery jar with mimosa. Thank you for your
patience as she decided the moral act would be abortion. Thank you for
knowing I could never have children and survive. Thank you for all those
years when my sister was alive, for waiting in the wicker rocker as I
lay on the couch and came to the beachhead vision of my sister down a
great hole flirting and begging me to hold her hand as I crawled, prone,
to the edge of the sand where the crevasse began (it was war, it was
war, it was war),
reaching down, knowing the edge would crumble. Thank you for not calling
her a sociopath. Thank you for witnessing this use of the imagination: I
began to creep away from the crevasse, it was war,
away from the ocean of her heroin addiction, the calls, the money, the
methadone. Thank you for poise and ease. Thank you for simply standing
as I learned how to stand on the sand.
Thank you for repeating that now you'd be walking with a cane.
Thank you for those occasional cups of tea. Thank you for the boundary,
perimeter, thin blue lines on a gray pottery jar, drawn lines, fine
lines, fine distinctions. Thank you for your soigne, distingue look.
Thank you for watching as I achieved my distinction.
Thank you for taking the young womans friend in despair, vaporizing into
smoke before her eyes. Thank you for the artful schedule--they never
passed in the hall.
Thank you for that silhouette I saw wearing your earrings and belt as I
stood at a podium before a darkened theatre, the vast audience unmoved
after I failed to entertain. Thank you for tolerating that woman's
wild hope of a genetic link to Thomas Love Peacock whose satirical glee
straightened her spine as she walked off stage refusing the routine
How long does a girl have to wear a gas mask, anyway?
Thank you for repeating "I know I can't always speak the right
words" (for your stroke erased many words), "But I want you to
know ... (Thanks again for warning me about the cane.) ... how much I
care about you," and thank you for forgetting you've said it.
For if one has to hear a sentence again and again, let it not be it was
war, it was war, it was war,
but those twenty-one words as if poured in spurts from an antique
pottery jar that sweats with cool joy on a humid late summer day in a
room with a woman and her cane.