02 April 2011

Poetry corner

Since my poetry has been described as "dark" and "angst-filled," I will spare you and instead post a lovely archaeological poem by Jay G. Williams published in the Dig-it-al version of Near Eastern Archaeology magazine (March 2011). The magazine is published by the American Schools of Oriental Research, whose annual conference is in San Francisco this year. So excited!

I especially like this poem because I dabbled a bit in fingerprint studies in my previous curatorial job. It also reminds us to "stop and smell the clay(?)" so-to-speak concerning these ubiquitous artifacts--ceramic vessels--that many archaeologists working in the Middle East can easily take for granted.

The Thumb Print

Like some dark, vacant
Ancient eye,
It peers, half- blinded
From the holy earth---
The handle of a common jug,
Once balanced on the head
By some young Danite ‘almah
(Or was she old and venerable?)
To fetch fresh water
From the Jordan’s welling,
Then dropped and smashed,
Through carelessness,
I guess,
For me to find.

Not smooth and glazed Hellenic ware,
This shard, slow-fired
And gritty crude,
Appears more Amos-ish
Than kingly,
A simple jug for daily use
In times of early iron.
No bounty for museums here.

Yet inside, smoothing out the clay,
Are finger marks,
And, by that vacant eye,
The proud creator’s special sign:
His thumb-print
Vaguely visible.

Then suddenly
All times collapse.
My thumb and thumb-print
And now we two,
So separate, it seemed,
By time
And place,
Are one at last:
In the eternity of consciousness,
The enlivened, molded clay of
The Eternal Potter.

- Jay G. Williams

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