The Alchemist, a poem




pots 3

The Alchemist

In memory of David Holmes



Curved over the wheel

chunks of clay changed

to delicate brown lilies

and grew out of the coil

of his hands;

blunt fingers coaxed

stalks into vases.


Bowls went into the kiln

coated in coarse white paste

and came out glowing;

he left them crackling

and cooling on the lawn.

In the morning

they had turned into jewels

gleaming like huge beetles

against the shaved grass.


He was always pale

and ghosted with clay;

smelling of wood-smoke and porcelain,

beads of white china

hardened and hung like pearls

in his ginger beard.


Sometimes I’d play

whilst he spun and molded;

make earthenware cakes,

slice them like fudge

with the cheese wire

and when I’d finished

he’d shape his hands into a bowl

I’d rinse my fists in them

until the water turned to milk

and dripped through his fingers.



At Christmas

his gifts come to me

packed in gold curls of sawdust;

wisps of Raku smoke

cling to dishes

glazed with ox-blood-red

and lapis-lazuli.


And as the urban breeze

stalks and rattles my street,

his wheel hums and whirrs

over the roar of Shapinsay winds.

He baptizes fire

with brine.


Gaia Holmes

From Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed


%d bloggers like this: