Bonsai at the Potter's Stall

June 01, 2016

Introduction by Ted Kooser: I’ve always been fascinated by miniatures of all kinds, the little glass animals I played with as a boy, electric trains, dollhouses, and I think it’s because I can feel that I’m in complete control. Everything is right in its place, and I’m the one who put it there. Here’s a poem by Kay Mullen, who lives in Washington, about the art of bonsai.

Bonsai at the Potter’s Stall

Under fluorescent light,
aligned on a bench

and table top, oranges
the size of marbles dangle

from trees with glossy
leaves. White trumpets

bloom in tiny clay pots.
Under a firethorn’s twisted

limbs, a three inch monk
holds a cup from which

he appears to drink
the interior life. The potter

prizes his bonsai children
who will never grow up,

never leave home.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2006 by Kay Mullen, and reprinted from her most recent book of poetry, “A Long Remembering: Return to Vietnam,” FootHills Publishing, 2006, by permission of Kay Mullen and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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