At the Marble Maker’s Factory
It was in school
we made a trip to the marble maker’s factory.
It was then I understood the world
I had not had an image for
clouds swirling on a small globe with a little white cap
made by a God who touched a sea of glass.
At first the flame is blue
then yellow as it melts a stick of glass from Italy
brittle as Formosa turned into Taiwan.
The marble maker holds the molten glob
on the end of a rod
and rolls it in a graphite mold.
He returns it to the tongue of flame to lick
and rolls it in the mold again
the way the world was formed
with magma and tumbling earthquake.
That night I would dream my coat is on fire
even underwater it burns.
But it is winter.
The snowy fields have melted and frozen again.
The scene is glassy as a white marble in the sun.
The names of marbles are barrel fire in the cold
oxblood, polar bear, raven, street light.
There are shooters, rollers, ringers, round little glass planets
constellations circling the galaxy of the marble maker’s factory
made to knock opponents’ marbles out of the circle.
It is always that
slow as Afghanistan turned in a mold
shaped in a shape not its own.
To come up against the world is to bear its fire
to be gored with swirls and slags and stag horns
in a flame that turns a stick of glass
into the glossy eye of a wild boar
or the moon.
It was a study in world geography—
first something, then something else
when melted with heat and cooled.
The game is to clear the circle
of other marbles in a boy’s game
that is no boy’s game but an archetype
of our own wilderness.
A circling of animals
or the circling of planets around the white ghost of sun.
This torch works its way into the core.
At the marble maker’s factory it is said
that Christ sweated little marbles of glass
before the cross
cold as the January draft on the marble factory’s floor
where he went to clear the circle
the Arctic circle—isn’t it called?
Diane Glancy is professor emeritus at Macalester College. Her poetry collections include Stories of The Driven World (Mammoth Press, Lawrence, Kansas, 2010) and Asylum in The Grasslands (University of Arizona Press, 2007).