The thousand hairline cracks in an aged face
match the hairline cracks in an aged cup
and come from similar insults: careless, base
self-absorbed gestures from a younger face,
cruel and fine. Bang! Each disturbed trace
deepens to a visible crack. A break-up,
a mix-up, a wild mistake: these show in a face
like the hairline cracks in an ancient cup.
Neither wholly broken nor all used up
the cup becomes a visage, unstable.
One never knows what will crack it open
and finish it. Banged too hard on a table?
Yet happiness might crack a face open
in a better way: hairline tracery as laugh lines
releasing the joys of ancient thoughts
cupped into use, and suddenly able.
MOLLY PEACOCK is the author of seven volumes of poetry, including The Analyst (forthcoming) as well as The Second Blush and Cornucopia (all from W.W. Norton and Company). Her poetry is widely anthologized, appearing in The Oxford Book of American Poetry as well as in leading literary journals such as Poetry and The TLS. She is the co-editor of Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems from the Subways and Buses and the Series Editor for The Best Canadian Poetry in English. She is also the author of the best selling The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, a biography and meditation on late-life creativity. Recently she has worked with illustrator Kara Kosaka on Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions.