Bridget Somekh read English at Trinity College Dublin. She has performed her John Clare poems at the Poetry Café and the open mic at CB1 Poetry, Cambridge. Her one act play ‘Aliens’ was given a rehearsed reading by WRiTEON in the ADC Theatre bar.
In Korea we might talk about how big a bowl you have in your mind.
Yurim Gough, ceramic artist.
The past lies hidden beyond the mind’s realm and reach, in some material object.
We found the studio up a lane, following
a notice pinned to a fence and through a rickety gate.
It felt like a private space, ceramics set out
severally on shelves along the walls.
I was minded to buy and made a
tentative suggestion – and you said,
“what about spending a bit more?”
I came to look.
The hand-moulded form of the bowl
was like the smooth interior of a skull,
and deep inside a man posed naked
on his elbow against a blue cushion,
his left arm crossing his groin
where his bent legs curved.
“I am Seventy” Yurim told us was its title.
A year younger than you, our first thought,
not knowing then what I know now.
You chose our bowl and when I hold it in my hands
and look inside I feel the weight of your head,
and delight in the bright eye and curving cheek bone
under the long contour of your brow.
Forty-seven years ago in the period of incubation,
our two selves probing, inspecting, discovering
the unknown of the other,
you excoriated material possessions,
the frippery of objects scattered about my house –
and I unwrapped their meanings in stories
of what had made them mine.
In a lifetime we found each other’s rough edges and soft spots,
and inter-locked our foibles and obsessions,
collecting pottery becoming a shared passion.
At seventy-one you bought Yurim’s bowl for me:
in its depths, the snaking lines of your physical presence
with your strong, agile fingers interlocked
and your face watching in profile.
How could I survive without this bank of stories,
so many memories that made us break off to think and laugh.
Yurim’s bowl is glazed and fired with a lip of continuous gold,
the man inside is for me to have and hold.
Poem published in Driech Chap Book, Ekphrastic, (end of August) 2020
Love’s Cold Returning: John Clare’s 1841 Odyssey from Essex to Northamptonshire,
by Ellis Hall and Bridget Somekh. Maps by Jon Harris. Illustrations by Pam Smy,
2019, available from Thirteen Eighty One Press, £20
Copyright© of all poems featured on this site remains with the poet