The National Poetry Review

Devon Miller-Duggan

MERCY

What have I passed on? It is said the potters of China filled great trenches with the porcelain clay
unique to China’s rivers, then layered it with straw and whatever was on the straw, and maybe blood,
then covered the pits and left the clay to ferment for the next generation’s potters. Even the best
clay needs more than its mountain-wash of particles to make the vessels strong. And celadon is not a
shade of green—it’s a recipe for glaze that fires differently in every kiln and weather. That spirit-
water green we love can turn red or grey if you don’t know exactly how to fire. My teacher made us
shatter all our first good bowls and drop the pieces back into the sludge to melt. Great Mother, is
that what Jesus was, your first good vessel, and you taught yourself to shatter it into the sludge, to
break what you have made and loved? Shield my child from me. Let her make herself the bowl that
carries things, the teapot in which things brew, the pitcher pouring itself out, the vase, the cup—and
let her deftly mend herself, perhaps with gold, or something I can’t dream that lets the light both in
and out.

DEVON MILLER-DUGGAN has published poems in Rattle, Margie, Christianity and Literature, Gargoyle, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches Poetry Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year (Wipf & Stock, 2017), and The Slow Salute, (Lithic Press Chapbook Competition, 2018).

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