Two small pieces

The outcome of my first day of making things from clay at home:
small, imperfectly formed, and mine

43 years ago, when I graduated with a degree in Ceramics, I knew that there was something wrong with me – mentally, emotionally – but I didn’t know what or how to deal with it. Since then I’ve been close to the edge more than once and in more ways than one. I nearly lost my life during a psychotic experience in Iceland, felt broken to the point where I didn’t think I could possibly mend, and ultimately pushed myself through such extreme, painful experiences that many times I wondered why.

Thankfully, I also thought ‘why not?’ and bit by bit I found a way through.

Being in survival mode doesn’t leave any energy for forward planning, including consideration of what I would do when I retired. The idea of doing some work with clay again suddenly came out of ‘nowhere’ and I’ve been enjoying going to workshop sessions at a studio not too far from where I live. However, I also thought it would be good to be able to do some work from home, especially during the winter months when I can’t work outside in the garden.

Pieces of a puzzle; sawdust fired 1978

The work I produced at college for my degree show was fired initially to bisque level and then finished in a sawdust kiln. We have no space here for a proper kiln but I’ve been exploring possibilities for sawdust firing; even firing ‘greenware’, that is without having put the pieces through the initial bisque firing. This will produce porous pots that are not ‘vitrified’ as they are when fired to higher temperatures, but some beautiful subtle effects can be obtained.

So with a few basic tools and a dining table, I’m off to a good start. I’m still going to continue to attend the studio sessions – apart from anything else it’s a lovely encouraging atmosphere and I enjoy the companionship and sense of shared experience. But it’s also great to be able to ‘sit and do’ at home – to make whatever I want to make – without time constraints or consideration of anything other than what I’m working on.

This brings me to Poetry/Pottery Rule No. 20: Enjoy the process.

Now that does sound like a plan – the housework may not get done, but these are pots that won’t need washing up!

Poetry Rule No 2. Establish a good relationship with a stationery supplier

I, The Tree

It is afternoon
soon to be evening
as I wait for her to return
from the business of her day

I always wait for her
and hope she never goes away

I am reaching, always reaching
into the garden she has tended
for many lonely years

I know that she knows I look out for her
and would love to wipe away her tears

But the fingers of my hands are too hard
bent and curled

The best I can do is to soften her sorrow
with the surprise of spring
and after the cold white of winter
the promise of a green and bright tomorrow

Summer comes
a time I love to share
with her
and the garden

She – stooped –
digging and weeding
me with arms outstretched
in full and joyous glory once again
her in her own way
also feeding

Together we grow
each through our seasons

Every year I provide a carpet for her feet
she thanks me from her heart
I feel
and looks out for me
the Tree
hoping I will never go away

I know
with all the branches of my being
I never will

2017 & 2021

Poetry Rule No. 3 Establish (and maintain) good relationships with other suppliers – providing the bases are reciprocal

Red

Red was the colour
of your jacket
on the chair –
with slender, tender fingers
curled around a tumbler –
as you waited for me there
on our first date

Red was the colour of my jacket too
there was something about you –
the mark on your cheek
the way you held your head –
it wasn’t love at first sight
but I was happy for it to be
something else
instead

Since then our jackets
have become
a pair –
your slender, tender fingers
hold me now
in bed –
but I’ll always remember
our first date
when you and I
both wore
red

2017 & 2021

Rule No. 20 Enjoy the process

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs from Pexels

Well-pruned roses

The pathways of my mind
Are not defined
Just like well-pruned roses
They shoot and sprout
In all sorts of places
At paces I know nothing about

The slate chippings in my garden
Are sharp and grey
They lay flat and easy
In the spaces that I make
Not knowing why
Or how long it will take

Praying to the sky
Leaves turn green and fall
Orange, yellow, gold
Flowers unfold
Well-pruned roses
Always turn out best
Until it’s time to weed again
And then it’s time to rest

Places that I know nothing about
Spaces that I make
The garden of my mind is growing
Like a well-pruned rose
That buds and blooms
Before it goes

Eventually the birds will come
To sing their song
In the garden of my well-pruned mind
Where they belong

2015

Poetry Rule No. 1 Do your own filing

The Lever Arch File

A lever arch file
is a beautiful thing,
made of cardboard
and shiny metal,
designed to hold papers in place
with a lever and a spring.

You can have an A-Z index
or a dating system,
nothing left to chance,
records retrieved, at a glance.

There is something so safe and satisfying
about the lever arch file
that now sits in a pile
in landfill
or burnt on a bonfire
where the smoke goes up
into the clouds.

Now we have digital data,
tags and the like,
are archives really a thing of the past?

Searches draw blanks,
seem random at best
will our technological filing systems
really stand the test,
like the lever arch file did,
once upon a time?

© Maggie ‘Glad the Poet’ Baker 22 January 2021

Poetry Rule No. 38 Take your time but no one else’s

Pedal Pushing

Today I pile on warm clothes
push toes into boots
hands into gloves
fix helmet on head
put pressure on one pedal after another
with grey treads turning on icy tarmac
in reflective waistcoat
I propel myself down the hill
looking like a wasp on wheels

Feet freeze into tennis balls
wind works its way in
between folds
finding skin
it’s an easy ride
but I’m glad to arrive
at work
this morning

Evening comes
and I do it all over again
this time lungs stretch and scream
at the incline that challenges me to stop
but thoughts of home and rest
are the pull

Pushing, pushing, pushing
keeps the wheels turning
until I arrive at the gate
maybe a bit late
hair wet with sweat
pedals finally still
pushing finished
for today

2017

Poetry Rule No. 35 Learning can be a good way of avoiding being taught

Life is a bowl of cherries

Life is a bowl of cherries
full of plumped up promise
like luscious lips
that are pouting and touting
for kisses

Life is a bowl of cherries
each ripe round fruit
tantalising and taut
held by a stalk
until teeth break into the taste
of sweet, tender flesh

Life is a bowl of cherries
juices savoured and swallowed
stones sucked clean
and spat out
until
one by one
the cherries
in the bowl
are all
gone

2017

Poetry Rule No. 11 Don’t be afraid of being paranoid – everyone else is, aren’t they?

Yellow Shoes

Jealousy and insecurity
hit me like a brick
the other night
and left me reaching
reeling once again
with stomach-churning feelings
head over heels
for all the wrong reasons
nothing to hang on to
inside my head
or in my heart
I didn’t know what to do
or where to start

So I bought yellow shoes
to change the colour
of my mood
watched birds of prey
and tried to write poems
that meant something
or occasionally rhymed
but not every time

Jealousy and insecurity
had hit me like a brick
and left me reaching
reeling once again
but I worked hard to face the pain
knowing there was nothing to gain
and everything to lose
as you reached out to me
and I reached out to you
until eventually
back on firmer ground
love
once again
was found

2017

Obsessive thoughts

Obsessive thoughts
of certain kinds
impinge on clarity
of mind

Will they ever go away
these thoughts that linger day by day?

I meditate on calm and peace
and still the thoughts come back to haunt
I wish I could find some release
from all these thoughts that sneer and taunt

Just let them go
into the wind
one day I will find
peace of mind

2020

Poetry Rule No. 13 Something to do with responsibility


Your Hands

Your hand is soft and warm, so beautiful
I want to take a photograph of it
but it seems disrespectful

Delicate and strong
I stroke it and know
it is comforting for you
it is for me too

Your hands are the hands
that cared for me when I was young
they have tended your garden
and left nothing undone

All your life you have cared for others
with your hands and with your heart
warm and soft and kind and strong
I’ll keep your hands within my heart
my whole life long

Dedicated to my Mum, Vera Elsie Baker (née Wallis) 22 May 1921 to March 2015 & my Dad, Albany Baker 22 August 1910 to February 1992. Both had amazing, strong, caring hands.