April 20: Tea Bowl by Eugene Gloria
A chorus lifts above the mundane spaces:
Silences and asterisks of dust—
My urge to write about the new disasters,
Homelands submerged, blasted
Coral reefs; a cask of dynamite
Has lent its method on the page.
Facts can melt away abstractions. New names for receptacles,
A ceremony of particulars: family portraits, a dance in fragments,
Postcards, a rusted tin of SkyFlakes.
Designed to intrude as little as possible into tea drinking, this bowl has the appearance of weightiness. Fired at low temperature and therefore less durable. Rustic and imperfect, the bowl seems to contradict preciousness. Fragile and suggestive, the Great Black assumes nothing but its own impermanence. For three generations this bowl for tea ceremony was passed down from fathers to sons, from one potter to another. Art inseparable from occupation is not an ambition but a way. I have lost my way in the process. Souls of no objects descended without warning. Listening to the shi, shi, shi of shoeless feet, middle-aged women in silk kimonos assembled in front of the glassed-in shelves of raku bowls and flower vases, a bouquet of pink and purple silk reflected on the glass.
—Eugene Gloria (Putnam County)
This poem first appeared in The Normal School, Vol. 1, Issue 1: 2008. Eugene Gloria is the author of three books of poetry, My Favorite Warlord (Penguin, 2012), Hoodlum Birds (Penguin, 2006), and Drivers at the Short-Time Motel (Penguin, 2000). His awards and honors include a National Poetry Series selection, Asian American Literary Award, Poetry Society of America Award, and Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and Virginia Center for Creative Arts. He lives in Greencastle, Indiana.