Qu’est ce-qui s’est passé?
I began to dream of pots.
Seulement les pots?
Oui. les pots. J’ai commencé a rêver des pots. I began to dream of pots. To see the clay turning on the wheel. To see my hands on the clay, turning on the wheel. To feel my hands on the clay, turning on the wheel. To feel the clay under my hands, dreaming on the wheel.
Et puis j’ai rêvé des pots. Tous les pots du monde je les rêve.
Non. je faisait cette rêve chaque nuit. I saw the clay turning on the wheel, and my hands, the hands of a potter, fashioning a pot. I saw the clay rising under my hands, its pale flesh encircling mine, The straight walls of the pot rounding under my touch, cette chair, dure et ronde sous mes mains. rising, rising until it stood; fiere, seule et vraie. Ce pot avec une verité qui va de soi-même, en dehors de mes mains, toute seule et vraie.
Et qu’est ce qui s’est passé?
As-tu fait un pot?
Non. C’était un rêve, seulement un rêve.
Alors, pourquoi tu me le dit?
Parce-que c’est le rêve du monde
Oui. Depuis le début, tout le monde rêvait de faire un pot.
ClothI see him through a door-jam bending over, soft and yellow in an under pant pale-blue from the wash. Our rooms adjoin but he does not enter. He is strange; a new kind of man, buried deep in Catholicism that mere negation cannot shrug off. I find myself falling like Alice through a hole into a fantasy undimmed by years. He doesn’t reach for me in the night or grab me casually as he passes by. Time stands between us, and I am panting to fill it in, to return to a past that I left before its arrival. I am no longer whore feminist spinster dyke. No sign carries its signifier no referent its mark. I open an old cupboard of linen and silk, and discover myself, unmothed
CorpsHe is shy my lover so shy. He shies like a horse when I bury my head in his lap, and lap and lap. A sea horse, trembling in the current. Swimming in a green foaming sea, hanging upside-down from a tendril, so delicate I gasp. A tropical fish darting in an azure sea; a calenture I fall into and never recover; a dizziness, an aphrodisia, I thirst my way, twisting, coaxing pleading but he darts across the coral beds, vivid, startling.
He is a beast, my lover. A black pelt runs down his back, a mane I stroke and stroke following the thread until it collapses in a whirl of golden curls. A spotted dog, he changes from red to gold to russet, I lick my way past the ram-tight curls, spun silver, into a forest of flaming red and gold. My apple cheeked lover, my Sumer-eyed boy. We touch gently until I discover passion has no edge and follow him into its recesses where he hides, trembling, quivering, and we hide there together, trembling, quivering until he leaves his cave – tongue first. Whispering Irish secrets, froufrou, frisson, frottage, fructogenesis and we fructify, our fruits swell and burst. Then he follows me around the curve of a woman’s haunch to a hill where we sit and breathe. Yes, he says and his eyes as big as saucers. I am his Molly and we leave the shutters open and fill the court with our yowls
ClothHe describes a photo he saw as a young man, which still stands, for him, as the antithesis of desire. In the photo a naked woman sits with her legs apart. In either hand she holds a drumstick, which she uses to hold open the lips of her vagina. He has been given the photo by the proprietor of a hotel in San Francisco, a gift to him and his brother, fresh from Ireland. I see them standing together staring in horror at this open cunt. The American gives them the name for the unmentionable thing — a beaver shot — and as they mouth the word and eye the object, fantasy dims to horror. The elder brother takes the calendar and throws it into the corner where it lies in disgrace, except on those rare occasions the brothers leave each other in unedited company.
There is nothing furled about this beaver; it is open to the eye in its full fleshiness. Petals unfurl, gradually, imperceptibly, in the dark shadow of night. I think about that gesture a woman makes to a man, something she says that lends itself to reading as an opening. She opens herself to him in a glance; in the way she sits, in the way she breathes, long before he has any right to act on this openness. And what if she makes this gesture — a concealed openness — and he makes no response. What does she do then? Does she repeat the gesture more floridly, more openly or does she know, like he knows, that the gesture has been made and refused. If she overstates the gesture she opens herself to the position a woman knows instinctively to avoid. The ambivalence of her gesture allows for a retreat, but retreat is so unsatisfying; better to imagine the gesture was never made. If she could erase it she would. But with the beaver shot we cut from that subtle first look through the entanglement of limbs and breath that unfurls a woman’s sex to the object, open to view. My Irishman and his brother reel around the room, the drumstick beating up their blood, a rhythm without a dance. For many years he doesn’t like to look, eyes averted, he wants to play the slow game of a coy woman. To throw a look and wait for its return. To spread a fine cloth over every opening, and a soft silk over every fine cloth.fill the court with our yowls
CorpsI fill my body with his sweet butter flesh. My belly engorges, my breasts overflow: cream of breast, butter milk, curds and whey. The babies flow, liquid fire pouring from the crater. They take form. They become. We exist
ClayThe teapot is sublime; its yellow belly carried low like an elegant mother. A gentle swell from pelvis to sternum, ‘Too heavy, too heavy’ I hear her sigh. The handle reaching back as mothers do to touch that bald point where back-to-back the baby lies. The golden spout, swelling at the base, as if insemination, conception, gestation could take this single form, and entering the clay, provide the font from which the tea will pour.
ClayI run my fingers along the fine white lines left by my daughter’s passage into life. On the last day the skin tore, leaving a slurry line from navel to pubis, an empty space held together only by the skin. A white slip clay where yellow flesh should be. The flesh a fine creamy yellow, the same tint as my daughter whose blue veins shimmer below a skin like porcelain. Unblemished, immaculate, surfaces not yet glazed by life but containing the breath that rushed pink across her skin, when struggling from an umbilical cord wrapped twice around her neck, she breathed. She and I like Russian dolls. My breath still rushing in and out, my uterus pouring her life, the small child in the cup of my legs, and a breath colouring in her skin.
ClayI catch a glimmer of light-soaked clay as I pass by on my way to the university glowing green and ochre and vitreous blue. Later, on the podium, as I perform the tasks of academe, those colours trawl against a surf of words. I lean back, pause, as if to reflect on a point, and secretly, discreetly, eye those pots. I run my finger from stem to lip, remake the shaft between thumb and forefinger and touch and touch that painted flesh. Beauty to weep on, my words stall on a hook of colours. I am caught — at this moment when the certainty of academic’s speech is required my tongue stalls — caught out testing the empty space that the rim enfolds.
ClothIn the dream I am lying on the bed watching a beaker of hot wax boiling beside me. My breasts fall flatly to either side, their skin stretched by weight revealing the blemishes of a slightly aged flesh. I take up a piece of white calico and place it in the space between my breasts. I take up the beaker and pour wax along the seam of breast and flesh until the cloth, softens, sucking up the wax which dries almost on contact, its heat melting into the skin that blisters into the cloth. I melt more wax and pour, filling in the shallow grave that lies between the two mounds of puckered flesh. I melt and pour and cloth and breast converge making a new skin seared into my own. I keep heating and pouring until the seam of cloth disappears into a new waxen flesh, smooth and glassy stretching from breast to breast. The drying wax draws the breasts in as this new skin climbs higher and higher up their slope
I take up two pieces of lace and sink their seams in the river of wax. The lace has been knotted by my grandmother’s hands just before her death, the fine work gnarling her old fingers. Bone white, overwrought with spiralling flowers, the cloth clambers over my breasts, corseting them in a heavy repetition of flowers. In the centre of each calyx, the petals twist to form an empty eye. I rise from the bed, and in the mirror, see through the eyes of the flowers my breast flesh rising. They are the breast mountains of a new mother. Charged with milk, rock hard and liquid. They push against their confinement of cloth; nipples peering through the eye of the calyx. As I watch, the nipples harden, tense and begin to throb as the milk rises from the breast flesh; rivers of milk flooding a wax-cracked plain.
ClayI keep dreaming of pots, like women’s bellies. A baby’s hand, a foot, bursting from the clay. Their dark hollows, dreaming with life. A breast, a belly, a round of flesh, a ripple in a sweet, quiet depth. I imagine a room in half-light, a gallery of quiet spaces. Pots standing in its shadowed recesses, terracotta merging with the walls. Unglazed, umber, warm in the cool light, their round forms untouched by winter’s heat or summer’s chill. Cool to the cheek; warm to a child’s hot hand. They stand empty, their grain long gone, a breath of yellow seed hovering on the rim.
ClothMould has eaten into the crazed surfaces of the cup leaving a spider trace of infection. ‘Throw it away’ he says, but I refuse installing it instead in prime view on the shelf where it stands, with the forlorn nobility of a vessel no longer in use.
ClayI spy it in a shop, walking by, and then return to covet it by night. Its deepmelancholic blue so cool; elegant as the sentence one cannot write, the one out of reach, half seen, dimly heard. I stand behind the window-pane entrails squeezing sweetly, breath frosting as its heat meets the glass and do not see him, nor feel his breath, until too late, I see his drops of spittle on the pane. I run through dark streets, his desire every shadow on the street. Behind me, a man who thought my stillness acquiescence and a pot standing quietly, unperturbed by this small, fleet, drama of desire.
I began to dream of pots.
I began to dream of pots. To see the clay turning on the wheel. To see my hands on the clay, turning on the wheel. To feel my hands on the clay, turning on the wheel. To feel the clay under my hands, dreaming on the wheel.
And then I dreamt of pots. All the pots of the world.
No. I dreamt the dream each night. I saw the clay turning on the wheel, and my hands, the hands of a potter, fashioning a pot. I saw the clay rising under my hands, its pale flesh encircling mine, The straight walls of the pot rounding under my touch, its flesh, hard and round under my hands, rising, rising until it stood proud and alone. A pot with a truth of its own under my hands alone and true.
And what happened?
Did you make a pot?
No. It was only a dream.
Then why have you told me?
Because it’s the dream of the world.
Since the beginning. All the world has dreamt of making a pot.
ClayIn the class I watch the other potters. Their hands know more than mine and this new kind of learning isn’t carried by words but by gestures. I am strangely wordless, new to this knowledge that doesn’t recognise the tongue. Even in the tearoom where the domain of words is reinstated, my tongue lies hard against my teeth. I sit listening to them talk of pots, glazes and techniques saying nothing. My body has fallen back into a long forgotten posture, re-enacting the body of my youth as if no years stand between this middle-aged body and that tongue-tied girl of fourteen whose roman-candle fizzed behind closed lips. My hands know nothing. They fumble with the same clumsy unwillingness with which they met the first flesh of an other calling them to its task. They are uneasy with this wet clay spinning underneath them and with the charge to make it grow into a tall pillar. I watch the teachers’ hands choreograph a dance that ends in a pot. There are simple movements to the dance but every step must be learnt and performed in time with the clay circling on the wheel. The clay is wet, always wet and moving. One wrong move and it swings out of time.
CorpsWhen her belly swells from foot to throat, when her throat ends in a pouting lip, when her shoulders swoon in an elegant fall this pot speaks and her speech is true. Her body graces us with her presence only if the hand that forms her speaks a parrhesia of the fingertips On the wheel she is wet, always wet and moving. One wrong move and she swings out of time. If the potter’s hand deceives she refuses to embody herself as pot; to contain, to empty, to hold. She exists as pot — only if she is true. If the hand invites a falsehood — she declines — falling back upon herself in disdain.
ClothHe has grown tired of my flesh. He eyes it from a distance taking in the flesh that bulges out of line. The muddied form, which time left to its own devices had overwrought. Close up he scrutinises crazed surfaces. I see his eyes investigate small lines, and continue on.
CorpsOpposite me two potters sit quietly throwing plates. They seem unattached and unremarkable. I do not notice them until the woman leaning out of an overblown body, thighs stretching around her wheel, turns to the man beside her and asks, ‘is it true?’ It is clear the question perturbs him. He doesn’t know if it is true; but running her finger from the centre to the rim of his plate she answers: “Yes, it is true”, and they go on potting.
My hands pause in their fumbling on the wheel. I can’t help myself from eyeing them off. She is, as I have said, overblown, or so I think until I realise it is a baby she’s straining to contain as her hands and thighs lock around the wheel. She has that swollen look of pregnant women. Under the chin, around the ears, the look of water and milk fat, puffing up the body. He is timid, soft, greyish: a public servant I suspect. By now the plate, which was true, has collapsed and he begins again. I wonder if they are intimates, if they turn plates together as they wait for the baby to arrive. Could they be strangers and yet talk so intimately of truth? Could he allow a stranger to touch his clay, to follow its thread, and to judge its truth; and if she is a stranger what intimacy did they establish with her touch on his clay? They go on potting side by side, unspeaking as if nothing at all has passed between them, she turning plates, he not quite managing to find the truth.
ClayMy pots lie in lame puddles around the wheel, twisted stems, broken shafts, as on the wheel my hands keel them over, one by one. The platelets, my teacher tells me, are exhausted by ineptitude. You cannot rise the clay again and again, it tires and must rest. Pushed too far it gives up on you.
Down the row of student potters, a girl — gasping at the pillar of warm flesh that grows beneath her hands — speaks aloud the unspoken. “Bend it to eight o’clock” the teacher advises, his hands guiding hers, “and it will wind back into itself”. The palm of the hand must be firm, the grip light, the thumb resting gently on the head and slowly under the pressure of the palms the clay rises. But then — hermaphroditic clay — the potter’s hands collapse the clay in order to open it up. From shaft to trou. The clay rises and falls. The hands bringing forth and taking back; this first step in the making of a pot. From clay to man to woman to pot. Simple forms spoken in a gesture that stops with the opening of the clay. Ready to make itself pot.
ClayWill I hold, I think, will I hold? But his eyes slip past me to other forms.
ClothAnd I came in from the garden wearing a floral dress, the clay on my hands and the line writing itself. There was clay on my belly and the belly pot standing proud on the table in the middle of the garden. He looked at me. Just a look and I saw everything he saw. The mud smeared floral dress, the fingers smearing their mud on the keypad of the computer, the belly hanging loose, the mud-drab hair. And the words just stopped.
CorpsMonsieur de Sade, je suis à toi.
A Sade stuffed woman. Sade wants her face down so he can get at her arse. He’s going to stuff his uncomeable cock deep into shit. Her shit that’s what he wants. Hands, fingers, tongue cock, smeared in her douce pourriture. Sweet rottenness. But that’s not enough. Open her mouth and stuff a shit-smeared cock in there. Fill her with cock, come, and her own shit. ‘We might need a few more cocks’. Get the gardener, the valet, the manservant and fill this woman wherever you can. Stuff a cock in her cunt and we’ll come together riding her out. A few more cocks and you! Stuff up my bum and I’ll stuff up her arse and you! Stuff up her cunt and you! Stuff up his bum and we’ll all ride it out together, but more cocks! Fill the mouths and we’ll have all these orifices stuffed up, stitched up, filled down; and drowning in the entrails of her filth we’ll annihilate her, make a lie of her sweet frame, plaster the truth of her unbecoming in brown streams of body paint. Write it on her haunches her breasts, and even in her most insignificant woman hole, her thing, her absence. We’ll write the truth of her sweet arse. She’ll cease to exist this pot woman filled to the brim, overflowing with her own shit and M. Sade. De Sade, relative of the King, nobleman, aristoi, beloved of arses. Pot woman! I breathe you in.
ClothHe writes to me but it is not a love letter although I seize on the act of address as an opening to seduction. We are to meet, soon, in a cafe to discuss his work. My thoughts turn to cloth and how I will dress my body. I see shimmering green velvet wrapping my arms covering the sun-frayed skin in luxurious gentle flesh. Verdant, green, the wet mud moist of an Irish field. Sweet revenge; to wear an Irish field for another; to be wet as an Irish field for another. Under this dress flesh is made gentle again; it undulates in rolling fields. A pastoral expanse to gaze upon, wander through, lie in. He makes no move to suggest that this is his intention. But as I pay for the dress it promises me to contain a form that will contain desire.
CorpsI made the quilt when he left to wrap around all the nights we wouldn’t have. Its sombre blues the colour of midnight. I knew he would be back, and the quilt still there, and gone again while I slumbered on. I made it from strips of darkest velvet, lugubrious blues sewn together under a camouflage of lace. Hid nacreous shot-silk, melancholic as wisteria, in the velvet’s crease whispering through the folds of heavy cloth. It sucks the darkness out of the night; sucks the sorrow out of loss. Impenetrable cloth, lined with a delicate skin of lavender silk. At night I fold it around my naked body fold it over legs and under arms. This heavy-handed lover, rough as velvet, soft as silk touching, nudging, stroking the night out.