Blog Title Photo

Blog Title Photo

Sunday, August 18, 2013

I'll Row you to Komodo

Tired of earthquakes, I'm off to Malaysia,
Less venomous snakes there, I'll smell the acacias.

And if you should dispatch, to Sulawesi,
Study your Dutch goed, then catch the ferry.

Chant Shinto, and make fire with flint-o,
I'll learn Voodoo, and incant like a Hindu.

Tremors in Timor means lava in Java,
Dance rhumbas in Sumba, for folly in Jakarta.

We'll get good food oh yeah, in dear ole Malaysia.

Fetter your feet to my mast my dear Mistress,
Better to beat me, than face a low mattress.

Don a kimono and I'll row you to Komodo,
In Kowloon we'll go saloon, I'll be your dear Frodo.

In my dream you were a succubus,
A demon who worked with an Octopus.
Together we all boarded an Omnibus,
And then rode to town the three of us.

My hopes are to climb, a sloped volcano,
Don a kimono, and row you to Komodo.

There are deer in Komodo, though people don't stag hunt,
There's a queer sort of fear of the resident dragon!

We'll tan yes, it's obvious, if we hike up Vesuvius.
Don't call me a genius, if things suddenly get igneous.

Once we start napping on the peaks of Merapi,
We'll wangle an angle on a rented serapi.

I'll grope your nappies on the slopes of Merapi,
We'll fangle an angle on a dope head's serapi.

Finding this ditty too graphic and corny though?
I'll try to be witty, after we blast through old Borneo.

Tiny poems tend to be volcanic eruptions,
that bring me back to Platonic corruptions.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Box of Formulas

Stephen's been hanging out at the house and not doing much pottery.

His shoulder and left arm are tied up into a huge contraption of black foam that he calls 'the couch'. . . designed to immobilize his forearm, arm, hand and shoulder all at once, till his torn ligaments, which were just operated on, recover.

Meanwhile he's thinking of just about every possible thing he can do to move his art along without actually sitting down at the wheel or lifting heavy bags of ground rock to make glazes.

"I'm under doctor's orders. I can't touch anything that weighs more than ten pounds. I think we can probably fire around the 16th, when I get back from Maine. I'm working out some ways to hold some big platters and glaze them."

The air outside his house, situated on a bluff in Fairhaven CT, was sweet from the smell of a walnut tree that grows over his driveway.

"Unless you want your car hood redecorated I'd move your vehicle"

The nuts were falling fast, big and heavy and round like hailstones. If you have never smelled a fresh walnut, they have an intense scent, like lavender or camphor. 

"I keep four or five in the truck to keep it smelling nice."

I brought over a small bin that we scrounged together yesterday. And Steve had promised to hunt up some recipes for overglaze washes and slips.

Stephen Rodriguez is one of the best potters working anywhere, someone I have a huge respect for. More than anyone he educated me in this art.

I was in my late 30's when I took it up, and started attending Steve's class at CAW on Audobon St. in downtown New Haven. He demonstrated wedging clay, huge rounds that spiraled like the petals of a flower. We built a kiln together, his design and supervision, he's guided me in glazes, clays and working through all the problems that hit potters at some point or another. He's fired kilns from New York to Maine, built and rebuilt more kilns than he can count. He's been my master, and inspiration to dozens of local potters who got their start in his classes. Yes, I have learned enormously, from others too, a workshop with Malcolm Davis, firings with Tony Moore at his wood kiln in Cold Spring NY, and all the many other potters who comes with their work. But Stephen's the one who has been around all my potting life.

He's seen me languish, diverting energies into construction, poetry, and painting, but he calls me back regularly with the handle, "Hey you making pots?"

Steve throws big, with eyes practically closed, arms deep in the center of a wet wobbling jar, a Beethoven struggling to hear notes from the clay.

Years later I have my own studio and am starting to make more work. Lately his bad shoulder has been the impetus for a series of firings we've done together at my place. I lift the shelves into place.

"Let's light this baby.". . . . "Potter wipe the bottom of that pot!!"  . . .  "All the girls at CAW spend time VACUUMING the kiln!"

But particularly whenever I'm glazing or firing alone, I just have to begin work to hear Steve's voice, echoing between my ears.

"Put it on thick. Be generous. If you put it thin it will break up . . ."

or . .  

"This one wants to be thin . . . thick and it will craze and fall off the pot . . . Be careful."

or . . .

"Have a good look in the spy. Do you see atmosphere? Is heat building? The flame should be visible."

or . . .

"Aw hell, we're not even hot yet!"

We went into Steven's kitchen.

"Here are three SCOBYs for your new Kambucha. You need some horsepower. Two gallons is a lot!" Steve was referring to a large glass container we purchased together yesterday at Walmart, sized to keep my family in endless Kambucha.

"Now taste this!" He poured out some of his home brew. "It's got George Cleveland's wild cherry juice in it. Hey, reach on up and grab that box for me would you? It has all my glaze recipes."

The box was quite large, and packed with folded, creased and torn pieces of paper, old copies, magazine reprints, hand-written glaze formulas transcribed from index cards, from word of mouth, from everywhere. A lifetime of chemistry on the surface of pots.

The names are magic . . . Chuck's Shino . . . Virginia Wirt's Shino . . . . Bill Murphy's Green . . . 

"Here's a wash that will stay black. Copy this one."

We made a huge stack for me to take home and copy. Practically every glaze in the mammoth pile Stephen had mixed or tested at one time.

"Most are terrible. Not worth the time. This yellow was great, but something's changed. I've mixed up five buckets and never been able to get it right again."

"You can help me . . " he added. "I'm looking for 'Judith's Ochre Celadon' 

Sure enough we found it. . . . the only way to know was the scraps of paper it was on, barely, held the last two letters of her name . . ."____th's Ochre Celadon". It was bent and creased and stained and smirched with bits of glaze chemicals.

What are glaze formulas but mixtures of the various rocks of the world, ground up?

Liked recipes for baked bread, they have the same ingredients again and again, flour, sugar, yeast . . . or rather Kona F4 Feldspar, Nephelene Synenite, Red Iron Oxide . . . Each holds a mystery, the promise of a color, a texture, a feeling, a behavior much as different parts of the earth 'behave' under pressure and time, and turn magnificent in the glint of the sun.

That is the potter's foray into terrestrial alchemy. Unity formulas, batches, test tiles, but never the same result exactly. We're not about industry. We're about nearly, and often, and sometimes. The blessings of a kiln God. The luck of the fire. 

Water Rituals - Chaga and Kambucha

Time to make drink for the studio.

Fill the Brita filter pitchers, two of them, wait till it goes through. Boil water.

Water for tea. Tea for kambucha.

Doing overtime that electric kettle. Just bought a 2 gallon glass flask yesterday with Steven, for serious kambucha production. How are my little SCOBY's doing?

Tea water. full boil. Four spoons of black tea and eight of white sugar into my wife's big teapot.

Fill up the kettle again. An uncomplaining machine of the twenty-first century. Somewhere in Bridgeport a giant GE turbine takes notice of the load.

Snowflake on a blazing stove . . . .


I read somewhere that there's a gal who makes dresses from big rectangular Kambucha SCOBYs. And purses!

   Her SCOBY dress was soft and fine,
   Alas rain fell - she turned to slime!

Old Adirondackers know Chaga as a tinder polypore, a dependable source of fire and flame in the coldest wettest weather. In days of yore, Siberian shamans prognosticated the future by lighting two lines of Chaga. The stuff burns like gunpowder, even when wet. The line that burns fastest, that's the prophecy.

In Sweden, Chaga is known as the 'Cancer Polypore' for no reason other than it cures cancer. I will relate some true tales of its powers at a later time. I give the stuff away to people with serious afflictions of the awful disease.

Descriptions of Chaga taste? "Nutty coffee", "Tastes like dirt!", "Tastes like really good water!" . . . "Tastes like tea!"

Chaga is a god in Siberia, so the name is capitalized.

     Who knows? The Chaga knows! 

The young princess birch is injured, Chaga saves her. He binds her wounds. He lives with her. Marries her. Together they prosper. But eventually he devours her young limber flesh.

I mix Chaga and kambucha and they seem to love each other, so I think I'll start capitalizing Kambucha too. Stephen swears by Kambucha. Mexican rural mothers use the old SCOBYs for curing rashes. It gives the skin a tonic.

Best darn thing for the male prostate!

I mix up my two Gods the night before a day at the studio. By the time I'm thirsty my cold thermos has a black beard at the bottom that looks like tea-leaves . . . I drink it up.

Stephen my firing partner, drinks Chaga and Kambucha also; we share lore on the two drinks. He found Chaga on a big white birch on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, and another on a grey birch in Lyme CT. He makes his Chaga by using a Sureform plane to grind a small expresso load of powder and does a Chaga extraction, like a custom coffee.

Never throw away Chaga powder. It keeps making. . . . Add it to 100 proof vodka and make an alcohol extraction. Serve with KahlĂșa and creme. Or drunk hot and strong at night with maple syrup and a touch of cream, or iced and downed in the heat of midday to quench a thirst.


The Chaga schlerotium feels woody, like cork. But there is no relation at all between the structure of cork, which is a wood, and a polypore fungus, which is a mushroom.

Around 1500 Million years ago funghi evolved from other life . . . A planetary emergency . . . there was a shortage of soil, and too many dead plants that weren't rotting. The funghi came to the rescue . . . dedicating a species of fungus, at least, to rot every single species of plant.

The mushroom returned the power of the sun to the soil. Funghi made their cells of scarab tough chitin. Beatle-back tough, strong as a dragonfly's gossamer wings . . .

They evolved neurotransmitters to signal through long cells in the ground, just what species is rotting where. The nervous system of all animals is something inherited from early funghi.

There's no thirst-quencher like Kambucha! Stephen speaks of a 100 year old woman who lives in the Mexican jungle. She looks sixty, and wrote a book on the stuff.

Water for plants, tea for the Kambucha, water for tea . . . it all flows, one container to the next. Pour pour. Stainless into glass, glass into ceramic. Try not to waste a drop. Either I drink it or the plants do. . . . Ahhhh . . .

"Ohm swaha . . . " I'm a priest, pouring Ganga water liberally about my temple. I slosh some into my matted locks. I wonder if my kids will remember to push a glass of Chaga to my lips just as I leave this world.

Today's studio fuel is half-Kambucha, half Chaga, with a splash of wild cherry juice from a Guilford wild cherry tree. Gratis Stephen, from one of his many friends. It's so sharp it'll make your teeth fall out. So purple, you become regal by looking at it.


Stephen's convinced that without Chaga we'd have both died of mesothelioma from inhaling ceramic fiber. Nasty stuff. Keep that Chaga flowing.

He's a paragon of health but working through a bad shoulder. The VA hospital did surgery on his left wing last week. He has to stay away from the wheel, from pretty much all pottery until the thing recovers.

"Use the time to read your poetry! Research new glazes. Quiet time for the first time in your life."

"It's a damn pain. This couch is heavy and hot." The 'couch' he speaks of is the brace the doctors affixed to his arm so he can't move it, at all. Stephen's bummed, as any man of action would be when stopped cold by fate.

So he's hitting the St. John's Wort and mixing with Chaga. At least he knows. "We're hunter gatherers." We gather and hunt and eat and drink what is right.

My last Chaga harvest came from a yellow birch on the Salmon Lake trail. She was a princess alright, who had taken too many Chaga lovers. A city of Chaga horns sprouted from her giant trunk. It took me all morning to cut down her royal excesses.

Surprisingly as a tree, she was still quite strong and limber. They would live together for many years, sprouting seed and spore . . .

I just cut off the growth, not too tight to the trunk. Unlike a burl Chaga grows back.

I rinsed the dishes.

What are we, but Chaga starships, . . . of water and tea.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Song of 81 Poems, XXXIII

See her.
Why he’ll even influence lions at home.
   Speak out! Laughter heals too, through ruin.

Choose your subject.
   Why must it be manipulated?
A delusional fantasy, more ways for the faithful to give sense.
What instrument of electric strength presents health?

Abscond to a bed of grain,
   Then sculpt her red, through time empowered.
Me . . . a dark deep strengthening dream.
Your fiery cunning work must hurt you less,
   They say why marrying has trouble.
If it's a missive done of black, problems,
It's time they confronted him.
   Father fooled us, as a joke.

Surreal fashion has a young impression,
right, behind a storm, in your arms,
   decay gives you psychedelic angel paint.
Infants better know a fool, fresh and glorious.
Discover my empty death,
  how she understands silence.
Heal by intimacy, come Pet, some party cares . . .
  Perhaps you heard,
  Patience, walk my favorite!

Your finger, and all these words Pal.
"Howl", we said. "You and I have the best unity."
   Know process, from important missions.
See her actor, a paragon angel.
Choose only play, fight smoke by lust.
   My Mom ate glass in balance, to deal our grand bitter life.

Okay . . .  we're up in yon, on other pages . . .
   They never told us their opinions.
Models grow up, so I'd better fly, in pain.
Abuse communicates, I'll have to choose a metaphor!
Reasons why life should appear,
   My perfect sound is still ugly.

"Disorder an enormous, mellifluous thought?"
Our presence pleased him.
   "Has he yet ebbed your observation?"
Think not of great passion, what marvelous creature comes,
   knows, influences, imagines . . .
I so did care for them.

Show any skeleton to me, I'll drink.
"Sister, investigate your wild bed."
   Dark soft cooking, I have him at night, by positive kids.
Better to live love, model, and investigate peace,
   a studio experiment. Passion brother husband!
I seem him bold, married to this thought.

   Partner think, drink nicely, this will be right.
Faithful aggressive rules never feel captured!
Curious in crazy joy, she does demand some sense of beauty.
   We love life.
Take good nerve, my homey daze.
Nude though free, control my body.

Glass, you are guile!
   I press, get reasons . . .
Oh how the Milky Mother works.

Song of 81 Poems:

  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45
46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54
55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63
64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72
73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81

Search This Blog