Learning to Sculpt My Life


I sit, lost in contemplation, before a five-pound lump
of Indian-red clay. Our teacher for this adult art workshop
has asked us to form the clay into a symbol of our life.
A heavy request from the jaded perch I roost on tonight.

Her instruction drips with the potential to encapsulate
over five decades of action, response and reaction
into a single static form. There lies the pointed head
of a conundrum as it pokes a baldness at the sun
and requests the tan of a tropical vacation,
without the red and peeled skin of a sunburn.

How to capture that first ejaculation of sperm;
all that love and sex that followed;
the hate, anger and loneliness of teenaged angst;
the rusted heart of rejection and soured relationships;
the pumped and chiseled muscle of triumph;
the broken bones of attempt and failure;
the child-hooded ecstasies and despondent tears;
the acceptance of mistaken projections;
the forgiveness of frivolous follies.

Where do I put my first “best” friend
and all the “bests” who’ve befriended?
Should they be dots in a row or circle
around the center of my life’s creation?

How to model these histories of my person?
Should one be a flying buttress on the left side
or a thin tapered spire? One a candelabra dangling
crystals of refracted dramatic details or spirals
that radiate in an ever-widening pattern of discernment?

All the dominoes of my life are standing on end
in a snaking row, waiting for the first to topple
and release the chain reaction that will possess
my fingers with the spirit of remembrance
to pinch, twist and pull this mound of clay
into the resemblance of all that I have become.

Nervous fingernails carve hieroglyphics in the clay
that only a Jungian collective unconscious can decipher.
I grasp the stiff, cool clay with both hands and begin
to knead a clump of my planet into something supple,
malleable, pliant in my hands.

I strive to shape my life.

Gary Fleming