Spanish Moss and Mooonlight

by Roy Beckemeyer

Spanish MossR2

The shape on paper was hers,
light pencil tracings
of the first ideas
of how the moss would hang
in front of the moon,
the humid haze would hover
in the luxuriant Louisiana sky.

Now he was shaping it
in three dimensions,
his fingers and hands
working together, centering,
centering, pressing, smoothing
the Lake Pontchartrain clay;
his strong left leg powering
the treadle, the wheel spinning,
the vase rising into an almost
living, an almost organic form
from a shapeless lump of earth.

“Pinch in the neck,” she said,
“there above that rounded shoulder
that suggests the tops
of the trees – constrict the clay
into a sharply defined ring,
a cylindrical edge that will
pronounce: Here is a vase –
a form with a hollowness,
with emptiness, inside it.”

“Oh,” she said, “the blue and pale
lighted circle of trees
I have in mind will hold
within that hollow space
where all vases hide
their secrets, the mystery
of moonlit nights and bayous.”

She carries off the greenware,
places it on her turntable
and begins to shave off
strips of clay, layers of clay,
snippets of clay that drop
to the workbench, leaving strands
of moss to fall from the trees.

As clay curls off the edge
of her embossing knife,
the live oaks and bald cypress
rise, their branches woven,
and everywhere the Spanish moss,
drapes, droops, caresses
the tree forms, bounds
the growing image from above
the way bayou trees frame
the southern night skies.
With the first firing, the vase turns
white as the fullest moon,
ready for the glaze. The blues,
pale, paler, palest,
separate sky and foliage,
shape and void,
turn black bayou waters
into a moonlit blue sheen,
mark the sky for radiance
with flowing silken glaze.
The trees across the water loom
upward, reaching, reaching,
and the round moon hides
behind fingers of moss,
the deepest blue moss,
moss that loves live oaks
and warm nights and calling owls
and chirping tree frogs.

And then the final fire, the kiln blazing,
clay and glazes merging, capturing
in the chemistry of ceramics and heat
a moment of time, making it
a piece of forever, burning
into reality an imagining
of shape and form and color
and shadings. Oh, yes, here is what
she saw before she began to sketch.
And here is what his fingers felt
before he took up the clay. Here
is what they made, together,
from earth and fire and memories,
from Spanish moss, from live oaks,
from moonlight.

– Roy Beckemeyer


This is an ekphrastic poem inspired by a Newcomb Pottery vase thrown by Joseph Meyer and deeply carved by artist Sadie Irvine with live oak trees and Spanish Moss in front of a full moon. The vase, pictured above, was made in 1919.