Historical Poetry: Pottery Fragment

Historical Poetry: Pottery Fragment
Above is a structural foundation that is found in front of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. As with the pottery fragment the poem below is about, these two creations can be a conduit to the past. Someone who lived long ago skillfully crafted these with their hands. Ponder it some. An artifact held in the hand and looked upon by the holder as more than just an old item with or without historical significance can open up a new way of thinking about history. With a little background knowledge and some creativity, the artifact can come alive and a discussion develop. Below is the result of my first attempt at such a practice: A conversation with history written in poetic form.

Israel Pottery Fragment
By Daniel Derasaugh

Beneath the sands,
covered and lost;
you rested alone.
without worth.

Small, square, copper-toned piece;         
Whose sure hands crafted you?
What purpose did you hold?
Who relied upon you?
And how did it end?

“Pulled up and fashioned from the Earth.
Water for a lone potter’s widow, then,
a young family with a little girl.
A trip to the Jordan,
and a careless step.”

How long was the wait?
“Two millennia? Two days?”
Was there relief to be found?
To be held with purpose, prized?
“No, there was nothing. A numbness.”

You should now know,
There is new worth in you.
Appreciated and valued by One,
Cherished by Another

“I feel now. I know.”

The Actual Pottery Fragment

Pottery Piece 1
Front view of the pottery fragment which is the subject of the poem.

It really is just a small piece of broken pottery, isn’t it? Seemingly insignificant in its importance. There are, after all, an untold number of these fragments. However, it was part of someone’s daily life at one point, or several points, in time.

The two poetic devices prominently used for this poem are personification and point-of-view. Personification is used to allow the conversation by giving the fragment the ability to listen and respond to the questions asked from a realistically imagined point-of-view. Content knowledge is important, but the degree can be variable depending on whether you are just trying to look at inanimate objects in a difference way, or promote your own or others interest in a historical topic.

In truth, I have no way of knowing if anything in the poem actually pertains to this fragment. But this is where schema and imagination work together to create logical meaning where none may exist at first.It is logical to assume this was a vessel for carrying water, and since it was found by the Jordan River, it probably somehow met its demise there.

Pottery Piece 2
Side view of pottery fragment.

Mixing a bit of creativity with history can help make it come alive for those who are not too fascinated with the topic. Doing so allows for something like this fragment to have some kind of importance that can be grasped, making a seemingly worthless piece of clay far more significant. However, remember that whatever is conjured up in the mind, no matter how backed by content knowledge, cannot be taken as historical fact.