The Martian

My sister invited me to an arts festival
In her small town in Connecticut.
We spent all morning dropping in
To open-house studios of local artists.

My sister is a potter.
We had lunch at her studio.
She said, I have to stay here
But you should check out the Martian.

The who? She laughed.
The bowl turner on Mill street.
My sister (who knows me well) said
You won’t regret it.

He’s great. His bowls are amazing.
I followed her directions
To a long rust-stained
Cinderblock building

Overshadowed by enormous sycamores
By the river.
Following arrows, I walked inside
And down a dingy hall of doors

With those thick wavy-glass windows.
The space reminded me
Of a terrorist hideout on NCIS.
There was one door open

At the end of the hall
From which a bar of dirty sunlight
Lit up the cul de sac.
I could hear the humming of the lathe

And the sound of wood
Abrading against the gouge.
His back was to the entrance when I entered.
He shut the motor off and slowly turned.

I instantly knew why they call him the Martian.
He didn’t fit any categories
Of description. His goggles
Made him look unhinged.

One eye was squinty, the other magnified
His shoulders were hunched
So his face seemed to float
In its own space.

He was wearing what looked like a bathrobe
Of many colors. His hair was long and straight
And white or blue or silver
Maybe it was the lighting but

His skin was slightly iridescent.
His eyes were black.
Are you interested in turning? He asked
I’m interested in what you are doing.

Do you have any questions? He asked
Where is your work? I asked,
The only bowl I see
Is the one you are working on.

He looked at me closely.
You are my first visitor.
I said, You are hard to find
And you are the only one here.

I know, he said. I am lonely.
Do you know why they call me the Martian?
No, why?
Because I won’t tell where I am from

So the rumor spread
That I am an alien, from out there.
Are you? An alien?
He looked at me and smiled.

And then he said,
I am from a foreign planet.
What planet is that? I asked.
This planet. It is my home.

What is strange about that? I asked.
Most people are not
At home here, he said,
They are only visitors.

You mean they are not centered.
Is that what you mean?
I mean if they were trees
They would be leaning over an abyss.

He is very dramatic, I thought,
But he must have his reasons.
Would you show me what you do?
I will do better than that, he said

Have you ever been centered?
Ha ha. What if I say No.
Watch carefully, he said.
He pulled his goggles over his eyes

And turned on the lathe.
I felt myself spinning in place
In some kind of harness.
Faster and faster.

Faster than I could comprehend.
All I could see
Was the face of the Martian
Closing in on me

While his gouge cut deeper and deeper
Into my woody husk.
You would think that I would have freaked
But all I felt was wonder.