Break a vase, says Derek Walcott, and the love
that reassembles the fragments will be stronger than
that love which took its symmetry for granted.
When I read this, I can only think who broke it?
In the British Museum, two black ‘figures’
(they don’t say slaves) beat olives from a tree;
a ‘naked youth’ stoops to gather the fallen
fruit. The freeborn men elsewhere, safe behind
their porticos, argue about the world’s
true form, or talk of bee glue, used
to seal the hive against attack, later called
propolis, meaning that it has to come
before – is crucial for – the building of a state.
Here it’s summer and bees groan inside
the carcass of a split bin bag. A figure passes,
is close to passed, when I see her face, half
shadow, marked with sweat or tears, the folds
beneath each downcast eye the same light
brown as – oceans off – my grandma. Mak.
Give me a love that’s unassimilated, sharp
as broken pots. That can’t be taken; granted.
My dad would work among the blue and white
pieces of a Ming vase – his job to get it
passable. He’d gather every bit and after days
assembling, filling in (putty, spit, glue),
draw forth – not sweetness – something new.
Will Harris, Rendang (Granta Books, 2020).