This three stanza poem is written in dactylic tetrameter, the dactyls each representing one revolution of the potter’s wheel: /xx /xx /xx /xx within each 12-syllable line. I really like the triple-meter for this poem, as it gives the feeling of circular motion, the idea of a wheel revolving constantly throughout the piece.
The inspiration for this poem comes from the several times where Scripture compares God to a potter and us to the clay. The passage from Jeremiah (below) is especially poignant for me. It speaks of a potter beginning one work, but changing it to another, almost arbitrarily. God does this to many of us, and we may never know the reasons why. Our only hope is to trust in the omniscient Potter, Who knows better than we what we should be. “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. (Jeremiah 18:3-6)
Swiftly He kicks the wheel, rotating steadily–
Lump on bat, now pressed flat, muddy-slick clay.
Spinning the shapeless mass which responds readily
Letting the Master frame urn for display.
Look, the amphora whirls, peerless, magnificent–
Ready for kiln to gild gleam on His piece.
Hold your breath, watch the Man scrutinize, nod assent–
Sit back, content, then as if by caprice . . .
Seize the jar, smashing the masterpiece recklessly,
Malleable beauty now ruined for good.
Start up the wheel again, throw the clod tirelessly
Back on the disk to become what it should.