Sunday, March 2, 2014

My grandfather's plate

I don't use the word in its connotation
of silver, although I recognise it fam-
iliarly. Thorny and I, my English dog,
inherited some very pretty bone china,
as my grandfather's everyday table ser-
vice, dating from before Edward VII but
after the wedding of Charles II. Over
the years the stuff has had a way of
sailing off a table, with the whisking
tail of a passing dog, or a lunge for
a call on a mislaid telephone. The old
frisbees don't settle with the aplomb
one would like, and again last evening
I demolished one by something I cannot
defend as accidental, in view of the
probabilities just described.

I don't intend these losses, however,
and I feel sorrow when they happen.
At the time, the emergency was to pro-
tect the tummy of the alert and fault-
less canine, from his natural inclina-
tion to subject any new terrestrial
trouvaille to alimentary analysis.

I knew this plate extremely well, but
I allowed my post-mortem to focus on
its cross-section. It did have a qual-
ity of bone, a fired core so white, it
could not help but flaunt its decora-
tion. More than a century of biscuits
for his family had this framed, but
it was that virile calcite, bright 
beneath its gold and lavish glazings
that felt so warm, even shattered.

A place on the table is provisional,
a place at the table is inseverable.
What is the quality of that core,
that survives of a grandfather with-
out gold or glazings, to embrace now?
That he was fed, or that he hungered,

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