Digging White Clay

As I dig greasy sweet white clay
from the pit beside my house
the slick ripens shovelful
by shovelful. Deeper and deeper
the pit flowers with a purity

few people realize the earth
can offer. Sculptors and potters
enjoy working this rich matter
and pay a premium to get it
fresh from the digging. I keep

shovel and bucket as clean
as surgical instruments. Days
spent mining this bright medium
pass like old movie newsreels
except for the lack of music.

I'll never be an artist shaping
natural substance to my will;
but selling this perfect clay
pleases not only my bank account
but my latent aesthetic sense,

which otherwise I'd apply
in some unconstructive manner,
perhaps to women or to flowers
or maybe to envy of birdsong.
The summer heat pours through me,

depleting my salts. I pause
to drink water from a canteen
and munch a Swiss cheese sandwich.
After shoveling six or eight buckets
into black plastic bags I'll tote

the day's work to a studio
and then drive home and relax
over a tall stack of art books
and down a glass of gin in honor
of the hole I've hacked in the world.

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