Air, Too, Bends Itself in the Presence of an Artist
Cool brown ground, just past the creek
You follow the call of a bird, a red song of fate,
along stones for skipping, amongst names carved into oak.
The wind leads you to me, nestled in the bed of a lake,
and it is then that the landscape becomes this:
through the trees, a spotlight of gold
focused on you, with rolled-up pants and mud-covered ankles.
I didn’t invite you, but I welcome you anyway. This home is beautiful to me,
with its rushing waters and floating leaves,
blushes of spring’s gentle bloom.
It is here, in my beautiful home of nature, that we first meet.
You hold me in your hands, and it is then that you see what I am.
A press this way, I bend, a press that way, I fall.
I am clay in your hands: malleable and soft, gentle and tender.
You tell me that you come from a land of rigid concrete.
That I am unlike any of it,
that you must show your world how to be more like me.
And I oblige, for who doesn’t wish to be admired? Who doesn’t wish
to shape the world around them, like nature’s architect?
You take me away, to this world of stone,
It is all the same, you say, but I am more
than towering beams and cold stares on the morning train.
You’ve placed me on a pedestal, open and light,
and it is here that I start to become what I am meant to be.
On this spinning Earth, I am everything:
tiny cups for homely tea parties,
serving platters for luxurious hosts,
sculptures of lovers with soft curves. The walls
of a model home cave-in, and I’m ready to learn a new beauty,
ready to be molded by your hands.
the walls come crashing down, up I am thrown
higher and higher, and, yes, I tell you, show me what else I could be.
Show me what it is I am meant to be, higher and higher, and then—
I am nothing, crashed onto the wheel, nothing once more. You wash your hands
clean, and I am nothing.
I watch as you untie the strings of your apron, fold it as if you are through.
Come back, I beg, I could still be rings or beads,
we haven’t even seen what kind of vase, or mug I could become--
But, enough, you say. It is enough.
The earth no longer spins. It is still
as I watch you pack away the tool that carved out windows,
that scored, time and time again, the marks that joined us together.
But it is enough, you say, and I am left
with the memory of everything. Of what I have been.
What am I meant to be without your hands to sculpt? I call,
but the lights have gone, your back turned.
I am everything, but I am not the artist.
The artist was meant to be you.
I think back to where I began, that home of water, wind, and wood
I want to return there, but I’ve forgotten the way—
plates, with me afloat, drifting
further away from the earth I once knew so dearly.
I look for you, but over your shoulder, I see
a new thing just like me: malleable and soft, gentle and tender.
A bird calls, a red song of fate,
and I remember the roots. I remember the trail
that followed me far from home. I remember the start:
rushing waters and floating leaves,
blushes of spring’s gentle bloom.
The path will come back to me. So I find myself just where I began:
cool brown ground, just past the creek.
D.E. Culpepper studies Ancient Greece in his spare time. Occasionally, he is interested in philosophy and writing. He lives in an apartment with many small objects and a cat that enjoys kicking them in hard-to-reach places. He wrote his first poem at 7 years old, in which he recounts the woes that accompany eating too much candy.