Tikkun Magazine



Demitasse

(circa 1887-        )

 

You evaded the fire-storm, reaching the shore

Of the New World long before, so nothing

To speak of has shaken you more than the rage

 

In my father’s voice or my brother’s infant fist

Shattering a pane of the china closet, leaving you

Unharmed (the shards swept away, the glass

 

Replaced in a day). Through it all you never

Were lifted, never filled, until at the close

Of the century I asked for you. A door

 

Opened: you were offered without a pang,

Without a story. Nothing have I beheld

As perfectly made—but are you the craft

 

Of a human hand or a portal to splendor?

Burnt umber glazes my espresso,

I’m adrift yet home, my lip touching

 

Yours touching gold; and when I’m done

I peer over the brim to find a faded

Corona within. Your fluted pedestal

 

Gives you balance, you contain an eternity

Of sighs: at the bottom, where you taper

And the dregs settle, thick enough to muffle

 

Any cry, a blossom abides in the center

(Even when you are empty something is there).

Sometimes I study the scallops of your body,

 

Slipping my fingers along your contours,

Curious about your lineage, wondering

Who else marveled at your lightness, your near-

 

Transparency, turning you over then to see

The mark of your maker—a blue lamb

Standing by a gilded rose, its feet resting

 

On a slender line, a single brushstroke saying,

This is the earth that will hold whatever

Dwells here, this the border dividing above

 

From below; and under this line, in a script

Deliberate and free, run the letters telling

Where you became what you are:

 

You were born in a lull called peace

In a kiln in Meissen, from a mound of clay

In the river’s mossy marsh. You were reborn

 

In Dresden, adorned by a master-painter

Of flowers that bloom in fire. You arrived

In a steamer trunk in New York Harbor.

 

You need no saucer, have no mate.

I will look after you and pass you on,

Hoping you stay for the last drop of the last

Day, the future for which you were made.

 

(To return to the Winter 2015 Table of Contents, click here.)

Phillis Levin has published four books of poetry, including Mercury (Penguin, 2001) and May Day (Penguin, 2008), and is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. Her honors include the Norma Farber First Book Award, a Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, an Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her fifth collection, Mr. Memory & Other Poems, is forthcoming from Penguin in April 2016. She teaches at Hofstra University and lives in New York.
 

Source Citation

Levin, Phillis. 2015. Demitasse. Tikkun 30(1): 71.

tags: Poetry, Poetry & Fiction   
http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/demitasse