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Mud Woman's First Encounter with
the World of Money and Business


Nora Naranjo-Morse

She unwrapped her clay figures,
unfolding the cloth each was nestled in,
carefully, almost with ceremony.
Concerning herself with the specific curves, bends and
idiosyncrasies, that made each piece her own.
Standing these forms upright, displaying them from
one side to the next, Mud Woman
could feel her pride surging upward
from a secret part within her,
translating into a smile that passed her lips.
All of this in front of the gallery owner.
After all the creations were unveiled, Mud Woman held her breath,
The gallery owner, peering
from behind fashionably designed
bifocals, examined each piece
with an awareness Mud Woman
knew very little of.
The owner cleared her throat, asking:
"First of all dear, do you have a résumé? You know,
something written that would identify you to the public.
Who is your family?
Are any of them well known in the Indian art world?"
Mud Woman hesitated, trying desperately to connect
this business woman's voice with her questions,
like a foreigner trying to comprehend
the innuendos of a new language, unexpected
and somewhat intimidating.
The center of what Mud Woman knew to be real
was shifting with each moment in the gallery.
The format of this exchange was a new dimension
from what was taken for granted at home,
where the clay, moist and smooth,
waited to be rounded and coiled
into sensuous shapes, in a workroom
Mud Woman and her man had built
of earth too.
All this struggled against a blaring radio
with poor reception and noon hour
traffic bustling beyond the frame walls.
Handling each piece, the merchant quickly judged
whether or not Mud Woman's work would be a profitable venture.
"Well," she began, "your work is
strangely different, certainly not traditional
Santa Clara pottery and I'm not
sure there is a market for
your particular style, especially
since no one knows who you are.
However, if for some reason you make it big,
I can be the first to say, `I discovered you.'
So, I'll buy a few pieces and we'll see how it goes."
Without looking up, she opened a large, black checkbook,
quickly scribbling the needed information to make
the gallery's check valuable.
Hesitantly, Mud Woman exchanged her work for the
unexpectedly smaller sum that wholesale prices dictated.
After a few polite, but obviously strained pleasantries
Mud Woman left, leaving behind her
shaped pieces of earth.
Walking against the honks of a harried
lunch crowd, Nan chu Kweejo spoke:
"Navi ayu, ti gin nau na muu,
nai sa aweh kucha?"
"My daughter, is this the way it goes,
this pottery business?"
Hearing this, Mud Woman lowered her head,
walking against the crowd of workers
returning from lunch.
Nan chu Kweejo's question,
clouded Mud Woman's vision with a mist
of lost innocence,
as she left the city
and the world of
money and business behind.

From Mud Woman, Poems from the Clay , University of Arizona Press
© 1992 Nora Naranjo-Morse
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