Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Happiness Bowls

                                 Pink and blue and
lavender, poured glass bowls pinched
to look like small boats brimming with water.
Inside, incised: the letters and lines of a
chemical formula. The white card says
‘Happiness Bowls’.
                                 I wait for the woman
to finish with the customer who’s asked for
a piece of art small enough to carry in a
pocket. As I wait, I decide she doesn’t love
her job. She wears her unhappiness like
a white card. The way
                                 she chinks the keys
for the cupboard that has glass pieces fit
for a pocket, holds the cupboard door as if
she wants to shut it on a hand. The customer
looks and looks and shakes his head. He leaves,
hand in his pocket. Please,
                                  I say, what is this
written in the Happiness Bowls? Seratonin,
she says, but it sounds like Sarah Tone.
She’s back at the table where she can
watch people enter the shop. It’s the
chemical equation, she says.
                                  Oh, I say. I didn’t know
it was like that. I stare at the hexagon, the
pentagon, lines and letters, NH2–HO–HN,
inside the pale, poured bowls. He’s done
more serious work, she says, I’ll get it, and
she walks up the stairs –
                                   brings down a bowl like
the Happiness Bowls but this one needs two
arms to hold it and it’s the colours of fire.
Angular, brimming, but no equation this time.
It looks primordial, like a wedge of something
precious
                                    cut from a rock
and polished. She places it in the natural light
by the window and the colours lighten and
redden, rise and fall, burn like a brazier. I am
enthralled. She says the artist makes a wax
shape and, from that,
                                    a mould, pours molten
glass into it. He fires it, cools it, uses acid
to make the outside opaque. Against artificial
light, the red flares, she says. The word
‘flare’ sounds like it’s flaring in her mouth.
Even the word ‘light’ has lightness.
                                    The ‘t’,
the merest tip of something. I imagine
her upstairs on her own under the lights
watching it flare. Yes, it’s cool to the touch,
she says, but there’s a warm current too like
the sea in summer. Then – No!
                                    she says, fingermarks!
Picks up the bowl and takes it to her table.
I go back to the Happiness Bowls. They are less
serious now: pastel, talky, glib. Something to
carry in a pocket, to bring out when confidence
flags. Why are they here:
                                    to give happiness or to
hold happiness? Or perhaps, and I feel this
might be it: the bowls are happy. And what is
that when it is so small an equation, so easily
etched? I nod goodbye to the woman, behind
her table again. She is
                                    polishing the red bowl
with a soft blue cloth, her whole attention on it.


                                            Mary McCallum

It's the fourth birthday of Tuesday Poem. I can hardly believe it's gone on so long! Inspired by all the fun Michelle Elvy (our precious hub-subbie) has been having with our usual birthday collaboration (okay - fun and HARD work), I decided to write a poem - and then got side-tracked on a old poem which had never felt quite right in language and form. So here it is again, streamlined ... hopefully better. And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!

I have to say I am deeply indebted to the wonderful Michelle Elvy for taking on the job of sub for our Tuesday Poem hub, relieving me of my weekly duties overseeing the posts there. After Michelle finishes her stint, there's another hub-subbie lined up and so it goes. And I will try and write more poems :) with the space these lovely poets have given me. And thanks as always to the wonderful Claire Beynon my co-curator.

So, please check out our hub now -- take a squizz at the fourth birthday poem, and then read some of our poets in the sidebar.

Go HERE to the hub ...

3 comments:

Helen McKinlay said...

I really enjoyed this poem Mary. it felt as if I was there and I could see the glass and the colours and observe the woman's proprietal behaviours. I wonder what happened to the bowl....

Leah Conte said...

How spectacular, Mary! I felt I stood next to you in the shop, observing in the sunshine. Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer Compton said...

gorgeous