We found a jar there. Not a vase, not a piece of the potter’s art
but glass, from a store shelf, with a threaded mouth,
the lid and label long gone, all residue of the product blotted away:
bright crystal. I had to tell you this because the word jar
dwells in between comprehending both. It reminded us of songs we know,
the “broken water jar,” the “jar in Tennessee,” the “drinkin’ liquor
from an old fruit jar.” But the desolating place: white weeds,
white ground baked into sharp lumps and ridges,
a dead sapling, bushes crisp with thirst, rattling in a breeze.
No moisture in the jar. No way to tell if it had been thrown away
or washed or kept as a vessel. We succeeded for a while in seeing
the curves and sun-glints of its strange perfect hollow with affection.
We felt shaken, imprisoned, as though the low whine of the acres of flies,
as though the silence, were aftermath of a deafening shout. We longed
for wet darkness, even if it brought that doom-laden bird, the nightjar.
Notes on the PoemIn "The Jar", A.F. Moritz ponders a humble object and the rather mundane word that names it. He embarks on some interesting mental perambulations from that modest starting point. You might discover that his wanderings spark some of your own. "We found a jar there. Not a vase ..." The contemplation of this blank slate of an object starts with a rather cliché use for a jar, as a cheap but cheerful decorating alternative. From there, the object is stripped of its workaday trappings and distilled down to "bright crystal." We're now able to reimagine and possibly elevate it to something quite different and pristine. In fact, as we consider the folksy remnants of what jars are remembered as in songs, we arrive at the suggestion that the object in question was "kept as a vessel." Doesn't that sound almost biblical? As Moritz encourages us to consider the jar's "strange perfect hollow with affection", we can next prepare ourselves to be jarred (has the word even been used as a verb in this poem?) by the poem's rich and unsettling conclusion. Oh, we're going to learn a lot about the mysterious and eccentric nightjar ... and from such an innocuously bland beginning, Moritz has left us with something very intriguing to consider.