The Teapot Speaks

Keith Emmons

We think this is a teapot.
This is a family of five on Christmas morning, at breakfast – smell the fresh tangerines!

The black scorchings from the stove.
The spout, neck of a squab, demands worms;
its squawk has obliterated differences.

Tin mines of Bolivia, roofs of tin-topped huts
sweep around a tiny dark lagoon.
This tea water flows from Borneo.

This teapot has a cap like:
hummock of ice; like
a toadstool top; like
a swelling of dawn;
like a symphony crescendo, at the moment of puncture . . .
the triangle; like
a torpedo – nose of detonation; like
a black funerary urn on a hilltop; like
a breast; like, somewhat like
the cap of a teapot.

Put a feathered stick to this handle
and no Zen master could miss the bull’s-eye.
Sitting immobile, this teapot gong resounds.

Who has riveted these struts for the handle?
Who has received this squat pot as a gift?

The children complain. They don’t want tea.

The presents wait. The fragrant pine
mingles with the tangerines and steam.

If leaning back, stroking my beard,
considering this teapot obesity, my rocking chair
dumps over backwards, can I say
I am over here, the teapot there?

Is this my reflection? I can’t even make it out.
Why does no one wash this teapot? And you poor thing –
you’re dented.

You are a curling ball. Players frantically sweep your path;
In a spy intrigue you explode.

You are a mine.
You are the writings of Chairman Mao.

At the table the mother weeps small wet teapots.
The young son smiles at the children. He knows about
impatience, mines, and Christmas: he has
one foot.

“When I was a boy! . . .” begins Father.

One hundred million years ago the brontosaurus reared.
Tumbling off the mountainside came
teapots the volcano spat.
Thus may a teapot put dinosaurs extinct.

You have killed a man!
You have killed a thousand men.
At a birth, you were passed from shaking husband hands
to an efficient country midwife.

Cézanne grips a spatula, legs splayed.
In Vermeer you repose among rectangles.
Is this Louis the Fourteenth’s hand?
Green tea is frothed with a bamboo whisk.
Did you end the war? Hirohito signs.
On the steppes you could have saved a thousand lives.
Did you hear the humming of the lonesome wife?
You serve Earl Grey’s with madeleines in Manchester.
Among austere Benedictines, you whistle.
You pour black coffee for Van Gogh’s miners in the Borinage.

Dali puts an ant upon your nipple.

You are among many neighbors, in a dark cabinet.
A mouse with twitching whiskers crouches. In his eye
is a luminous teapot.

If you were not a teapot, I would say continental Africa
is on your side.
Is this a dent or Borneo? Red and blue Chinese fish
circle in your waters.

You are a lesson in geography. To understand you
one needs an atlas.
You are on his shoulders now.

You, teapot, you boil in the minds of the children.
They dash, scattering tangerines. The son
hobbles to the tree where presents are heaped
like teapots.

“When I was a boy . . . ” concludes Father, “I was a teapot.”



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