Oldest among dishes is the bowl, its shape found in shells and
rain-eroded stones; in puffballs sliced in half, gills gutted; in
hollowed-out homonyms that grow on trees, mainly oak and maple. There
are four qualifiers essential to a bowl’s condition: empty and full,
whole and broken. They also apply to a human life. The bowl is praised
for its compatibility, willingly nesting inside another bowl, humble
saints of the crowded cupboard. Though its speciality is soup, it
welcomes anything you give it. If you spit in it, it remains courteous
and constant. No matter what its lineage, it doesn’t judge or need high
table. It feels at home among the homeless in church basements, at the
feet of a busker who sings for coins. It shows no preference for humans
to cats or dogs. Anything can feed or drink from it. Though it looks
satisfied with its fate, the bowl has more in common with the dragonfly
than with the cup or pitcher. Few know it is a rarity, counted among the
special ones capable of shifting shape. Its stage right now is pupae.
Under the proper conditions, it will metamorphose. Become a horse’s
hoof, an ocarina, a set of new white teeth shining in a glass of water
by a bed.
Lorna Crozier’s latest book is Small Beneath the Sky, A Prairie Memoir. A Distinguished Professor at the University of Victoria, she is the recipient of several awards for poetry, including the Governor General’s.