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March 17, 2011

by Robin Chapman

Small Santa Clara pot I buy
in the Santa Fe market from its maker,
Noel, maybe a grandson of Maria: he breathes
spirit into its mouth and hands it to me:
it fits in my palm, its mouth ringed
by the rainbow serpent, fragment
of my ancestry—so too in my palm the dour
Scots taking the land from Irish owners,
the French trapping mink in St. Croix,
the Cherokee on the long trail of tears
to Oklahoma grasshopper heat, the English
brothers hopping a freighter, scrabbling
west to pan for gold in California,
pick cotton, cobble shoes for luckier miners,
and the grandfather who sold golden
Mazola oil and cornstarch by Model T
and wrote poems to the grandmother
who praised violets, blue and true, in hers,
and the grandmother raised on the reserve
who stitched draperies till her eyes went bad
and the grandfather who repaired
leaking pipes, telephone lines,
and typewriters—here I am in Santa Fe
holding a black bowl fired and glazed
by Noel in a secret way that gives a shine
to its black on black shell and holds
the breath of generations in its mouth.

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Robin Chapman is author of six books of poetry, including most recently Smoke and Strong Whiskey (WordTech Editions) and Abundance, winner of the Cider Press Review Editors’ Book Award. Her seventh, The Eelgrass Meadow, will be published by Tebot Bach in 2011. She is the recipient of the 2010 Helen Howe Poetry Prize from Appalachia.

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  1. Tony Press
    March 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    If anyone needed a reason to subscribe to Qarrtsiluni, this poem would be it. What a treat to find in my inbox. Thank you, it is wonderful reading.

    • alex cigale
      March 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

      The more I re-read it, the more I love it, its concision and intensity.

  2. March 17, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    Thanks for this poem, Robin. I agree with Tony. This is definitely a superb piece.

  3. Alex Cigale
    March 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    As I tweeted and posted on Facebook: Robin Chapman translates a Santa Clara pot into personal history: “he breathes/spirit into its mouth and hands it to me….” I’m a big Maria Martinez fan…. A fine poem, Robin!

  1. May 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm
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