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Working the Kiln, by Ben Parker Poet in Residency

  • 4 November 2014

“In this poem I tried to capture the intense heat that the men who fired the porcelain worked in, and contrast this danger with their own relaxed and even jocular attitude to it, as typified by their using the kilns to cook their breakfasts.”

Working the Kiln

Thick air. Dry brick-dust. Fumes.
Swaddled in damp cloth
we enter again that dragon-cave

to return as steaming thieves
clutching the delicate egg
of porcelain, taking it to that cool

the kilns we work in never know
and dousing ourselves deep
in the horse-trough to gain relief.

Each morning we cook our bacon
in seconds, plunge our hands
in ice to keep the blisters back.

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