THE KILN: Antonio Martinez, machinist

October 10, 2014

Crisp, starched khaki          boxes my shoulders’

arch. Anglo          women stare.

“He’s beautiful.”          Anita glares.

I wink and laugh          to reassure her.

“It’s just the uniform.”          More honestly:

she pays a price          for my army pay.

Such honesty’s          unwelcome now.

Her jealousy’s          gesture signals

love. Her worry          isn’t really real.

She thinks I’m used          to playing manikin

equally in boots          or moccasins.

Certainly, I dress          the soldier’s part,

defend the white          man’s world as if

it were my own,          allow my wife

to dream white          women envy her.

But when I wear          headdress and war

paint for a festival,          when tourists crowd

the pueblo crowing          in delight, in which

world do my eagle          feathers pinion me?

Anita readily          admits Los Alamos

is ugly, but she likes          our hutment’s ice

box. She extols          the fresh linoleum.

In San Ildefonso,          Mother favors

her mud oven’s          vagaries above

the evenness          of an electric stove.

She will not buy          her clay. She stacks

old license plates          and army mess trays

around an iron grill          to make a kiln.

Under her hands          time sits still.

Up on the Hill          Hans Bethe hopes

to stretch the RaLa          sitting time

to milliseconds.          I hammer sheets

of copper for          the pit mockup.

Oppie stops in          to observe. His eyes

pace like a skittish          filly before

he gallops off          to check Omega.

Some days I feel          his restlessness.

Then, when Anita          and Hans can spare me,

I ride north along          the Rio Grande

to Santa Clara          where I gather

the volcanic ash          for flux that Mother

calls “blue sand.”          Back home, we sit

outside her door          and mix clay slips

or cut kajepes          if the gourds are dry.

When I ask her why          she signs her name

“Marie,” she says,          “That’s how the Anglos

know me: now         ‘Maria’ sounds

like someone else.”         “Poveka” is lovelier,

though habit turns         all things to English,

and “Pond Lily”’s         not her, either.

She understands          we serve a larger

thing: something          that makes us

strong—or, if we          fight it, breaks us.

It might be called          community.

But which is mine:          the pueblo or

Los Alamos? The mother          I’ve been given

or the wife I chose?          How can I bear

a Spanish name          and speak in English

yet keep my Tewa         soul? I need

the red fox, luck.          Patient, clever.

I hammer copper,          grind new bearings

for the Van de Graaff.          In October

I return to dance          the harvest festival,

help Mother dig         and sieve her clay.

She offers cornmeal          for the earth’s blessing;

we fill a dozen          flour sacks to last

the year. Her pots          are always waiting,

some signed Marie          and others Poh’ve’ka,

Marie/Popovi,          or Maria Poveka.

I stack the logs,          pour kerosene,

and layer dung         chips at the edges.

After they bake,          I smother the pile

with ash and fine,          dry horse manure

and let it smoke          an hour. As Mother

pulls the kiln          apart, I look

to see which names          survived the fire.