“Mug”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
March 6 2012 6:00 AM

“Mug”

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Michael Ryan read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Glaze crazed and lip chipped, my beloved mug
has suffered one too many Hi Temp Power Scrubs
that unglue from my pots their antediluvian pot-crud
but must have felt like burning hurricanes
to my pint-size off-white faux-porcelain darling.
How could I have blithely slept
while she was being buffeted on the top rack
amid thick glass tumblers and impervious Tupperware?
How could I be so blind to put her
through this recurring Armageddon nightmare
when all she needed was a warm hand-wash
and cool air-dry upside down on a dishtowel?
Delicate, in truth, she wasn’t. MADE IN CHINA
tattooed on her bottom, she was always cheap
and probably dangerous: Her black underlayer
now showing through the crazed glaze like varicose veins
no doubt leached into my blood the thousand times
I filled her to the utmost with dark roast
and took her hot lip between my lips.
At such moments, who thinks what’s underneath?
lead or cadmium or reprocessed industrial waste?
Mornings before the house was awake,
in exquisite quiet and not-yet-light,
I’d cup her tenderly in both hands,
breathing her heat, not needing to speak.
I felt so happily posthumous,
just this side of nothingness, alone but not.
I didn’t need to be anything for her
but an eager mouth—not a nice husband
or good son or even a man—only the unregenerate
consumer that I am. I savored every dram.
Everything later was decaf,
dull paper cups in mousy brown sleeves
served by contractually cheery Starbucks drones
amid chatter and laptops and cellphones.
But I knew tomorrow morning she’d be sparkling,
ready to give back whatever I put in,
and we’d have our time together again,
respite with no pretense of nourishment,
her first bitter droplet on my tongue tip.
How sad that it may have been toxic.
I’d bury her in the backyard like a pet,
except she could pollute the aquifer.
Goodbye, beloved mug. No recrimination. No regret.
(At least until my next blood test.)
I had not one unpleasant moment with you.
Who in the world can anyone say that about?
I’d like to think I somehow gave you pleasure too.
Maybe we’ll meet again in another life,
me the mug next time, you the mouth.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site. Click here for an archive of discussions about poems with Robert Pinsky in "the Fray," Slate's reader forum

Michael Ryan is the director of the MFA program in poetry at the University of California Irvine. His new book of poems is This Morning

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