Nobody had asked me what my opinion had been. Nobody had been around to. Though I had snuggled up beside the nearest sandpile, and was reading a note left there by another stranger, before last summer it seemed, I couldn’t imagine ever talking. My boots had become unlaced, too, and filled with several tiny stones apiece, bits of blue I had stumbled upon four miles or so north of the Mexican border, ninety miles south of Tucson. Even there, when I had dined with people, I had been put to their side, served alone outside the purview of ties, dresses, and light but good morning laughter over sausages, eggs, and steaming muffins. Any words, like table crumbs, had been smoothed away and I was forgotten. Now that my heart had been emptied of blood, and my mind had become a near vacuum of human desire, I was as ready as the Rose of Sharon to bloom in Jehovah’s own desert somewhere in a land I had never seen, beside a boulder near the foot of mountain where nothing before had taken root.
The land itself was some kind of autochthonous lie, treasure of history going back one generation beyond the next. Those who had kept it, worked it, those who had lived on, who had scratched out thin crops from it, these people they were all gone. All of them were dis-remembered. And I had been there once myself, having sorted out the soups, the guarapo, the mountain a-fire. And there in the lagoon I had sunk my own money, harbinger of dreams, troubler of domestic discord, all mixed up in the boondoggled memory of sentimental if not sanctimonious notions of thatch-roofed futurity. For those dozens of years the coy fish swam and had swum, none inscribed nor encumbered by felonious intent. In the wintertime they must have sunk, they sank below the water, mixed and mixing with debris and mud, to live again, offspring of the next season of seasons thereafter. The rocks and trapped rainwater, these might have held onto life like angels must have held their breaths, such as passersby passing by are who may be about to put their own fingerprints on the blank mist, the clouds hanging low, the empty standing air.
That it had been a little step away from where I had been and what I had seen was obvious and clear. There had been no steel girder pulled up from a cable from a crane’s boom in Portland overhanging a dry poured cement pad. There hadn’t been a nuclear waste zone clean up gang either somewhere in Central Asia that had never been reported, too small to have been picked up by sensors anywhere anyway. Nor a contributor to gut bacteria research and the effect of human health overall on the biome. No, I had side-stepped, side-swept it all. Had emptied my front pockets left and right of this week’s lint and last year’s recollections and memories and just gone out. Had gone out for a while, over last year’s leaves, last fall’s crash out. There was a little bit of bright fluttering divinity out there, too, as usual. And these angels, if rather poisonous, I had also skipped past.
I had told this boy the same thing that I tell everybody else. He came by, stopped over, and was looking at all the tables. I told him the prices were marked: on this table $15, on this table $12, on this table $10. The prices were for all the crystals accordingly. And he was with his son, a little one, and they were looking at all the specimens. All the crystals, every one of them had been from here, from Mr. Ida, and they are nowhere like this anyplace else in the world. “God,” I told him, just like I told everybody, “made you perfect just the way you are. Ugly or beautiful, just the way you are, God makes everything in this world already perfect.” I wrapped his up in newspaper while the little boy of his had wandered off to the cleaning station where we had hoses and chemicals. I had warned him, the father, to keep his boy clear from that, where we had my husband and I five gallon buckets full of water and oxalic acid sitting in the sunshine to clean up the rocks before selling them. You don’t want to fool around at all with that stuff. 5 grams of it will kill your kidneys and that will be the end of you. The police that came by said he was one of the most wanted men in America. They hadn’t said why that was, nor had I told them that he seemed like a perfectly good father to me which I reckoned wasn’t any of their business.
Every day I make a pot. I put the pot on the shelf. The next day I make another pot. And I put another pot on the shelf. I make pots every day. I do not stop making pots. I don’t see anybody who takes a pot, not one of mine. Maybe another’s. It is no matter, at least not a great one. I make pots for everybody. Some see them, some do not. I am certain that if somebody saw a pot and bought my pot, perhaps somebody would like it. But I cannot be sure of who, even the one who bought it might not. I just keep making them day after day. At night, when I am exhausted, I do not even think that tomorrow I will make another pot. I do not know beforehand if I can. I just do. I may even doubt it, doubt that I have the hands in me to make another pot the next day, tomorrow. Somehow, by the grace of God, I can, I do. I can hope only in this way, that tomorrow, inshallah, may I make another. And that when my hands are through altogether, though I cannot say how many there will be, that my shelves will be full and empty of all the pots I will have made.