Metaphysical verse

Higher readings


Our race attains by careful steps (we say),

to knowledge of our clay;

the cleft of rock from whence it came, we know

percents of sand and loam,

of precious ores, and what the lime, and what

the iron readings say.


But if we care (says she) who mined the cleft,

who loved us first, gave breath,

and turned us on the wheel – we gain that life

from whence he came, who donned

our clay, to face and finish death – these things

the higher readings say.


Needy hearts (we say) put too much hope in

fay warnings and unknowns.

The turning wheel makes us true; we trust in

high firings and fine glazes

for strength and length of days – all these are knowns,

in minutes and degrees.


I see shards in a vale like dry bones (says she),

with no prophet sighing,

nor showing any sign worth possessing;

What means “whither after?”

to vessels not caring if they be made

for wrath or for blessing.


J.F.S. Anngeister, 2011, all rights reserved.


Note:  The poem has absorbed so much time in the past 2 weeks that I publish it here hoping to set it in stone, and to move on (I probably can’t).

The rhyme is irregular but functional, I think, and the six-line stanzas 10-6-10-6-10-6 (with rare but warranted exceptions) helped me embrace words which – out of thousands of wonderfully ‘possible’ and very deserving words – seemed to me most ‘fit’ to join my thoughts together in this particular case.

I worry that my meaning has become too terse from the lines being overwrought, and this makes me feel like writing more lines than I did.  However, I decided that any more than four stanzas would run the pottery metaphor into the ground.


4 thoughts on “Metaphysical verse

    • Thanks, skholiast.

      I usually go to structure because otherwise I end up with nothing more than prose journaling divided into short lines (which was all that bad poetry was in my youth and still is).

      However, I sometimes begin by dividing interesting pieces of my own prose into short lines – if they offer unusual approaches to compelling ideas – and work with it until I have poetry.

  1. Well done.

    I like the disciplined adherence to form, and I don’t think it is too terse. I personally prefer poems to be grammatically and syntactically unapologetic (at least as long as they don’t become obscure to the point of absurdity), though rife with thoughtful ideas (which I think you did here.)

    Also, I like the biblical allusions, and I’m wondering if you intended to allude to T.S. Eliot, or if I’m simply looking for him. The images of rock in the first stanza and the lack of rain in the fourth brought to mind the 2nd and 3rd stanzas of “What the Thunder Said” in The Wasteland.

    The references to firings reminded me section IV of Little Gidding: “To be redeemed from fire by fire.”

    Like I said; well done.

    • Annie, thanks for coming by and for the comment and compliment.

      Eliot was a late influence on me, and I studied his poetry with an excellent teacher so yes possibly though not consciously here.

      Interesting that ‘high firings’ is just where I think the poem is most terse – and probably only clear to a potter. I’m trying to get by with an obscure reference to the process in which a pot is baked or ‘fired’ twice (before glazing and again at higher temp after).

      The third stanza pressured me because I needed to get past the response to ‘she’ of the second stanza and still throw together in short compass the pots’ proud little ‘exact objective history’ in wheel, oven, and glazing.

      I hope I can leave it be – but check back in a month to see if the third stanza has morphed 🙂

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