A Piece of Plastic Clay (A Poem for Mother’s Day)

This poem is a good reminder of a mother’s influence in her child’s life.

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day,
And as my fingers pressed it still,
It moved and yielded at my will.

I came again when days were past;
The bit of clay was hard at last,
The form I gave it still it bore,
But I could change that form no more.

I took a piece of living clay,
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart.

I came again when days were gone;
It was a man I looked upon;
That early impress still he wore,
And I could change it never more.

(Author Unknown)

Related post: The Magic Dresser (A Poem for Mother’s Day)


  1. Divine says:

    I first encountered this poem when I was a second year high school when our English teacher and our school principal took up this poem. Until now in my 40s with 4 sons, I couldn’t forget it because, it’s one of my guides in molding my children.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Divine – I agree, it is a very nice poem. Thank you for sharing your story!

  3. nancy says:

    I like this poem but there is another like this that is called potters wheel. when i look it up on the computer there are 100s and i can’t find it. do you know the poem? i do not know the author.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Nancy – I think I found it.

    The Potter’s Wheel

    When you’re troubled and discouraged
    In the darkness of the night
    When obstruction clouds your vision
    And you just can’t see the light.

    When life’s trials overcome you
    And you have nowhere to turn
    When you’ve reached the very bottom
    There are lessons you must learn.

    For the clay is being molded
    It’s been twisted, pulled and tossed
    It’s been rolled and it’s been pounded
    Till the ego has been lost.

    He will put you through the furnace
    You’ll be tested to the brim
    Your life will be in pieces
    Till you give your soul to Him.

    From blemish to perfection
    His hands will form the clay
    This human piece of rubble
    Must let God have His way.

    When you come to Him all battered
    In the form of mortal man
    When you cry to Him in mercy
    You will find the Potter’s hand.

    He will grind you, mold and chisel
    The friction you will feel
    Till He gently carves and shapes you
    Upon the Potter’s wheel.

    Author/Written By:
    Marilyn Ferguson

  5. Kathleen says:

    I saw the first poem (I took a piece of plastic clay) more than fifty years ago when one of the nuns gave it to us as a prayer card in high school. It was titled, “The Teacher.”

  6. Divine says:

    Hello Mr. Ray Fowler:

    It was I who gave a comment above way back June 26, 2010. Today, I again searched for this poem and it so happened that it is your website that I happened to open. I am searching for this poem to share to parents in our school. We have a parenting seminar today about Values Formation. And as one of the teachers, I am given the task to be an EMCEE.
    Thanks again! God bless.

    Ms. Divine

  7. Ray Fowler says:

    Hello Ms. Divine, welcome back after almost three years! Glad you found what you were looking for.

  8. Divine says:

    Thanks Mr. Fowler!

  9. Dean says:

    Many years ago my wife and myself were cottage parents in a Childrens home at the time I was attempting calligraphy and had a great desire to put this poem ( The Teacher)on paper with my pens They were busy and demanding times and I lost the poem but never forgot its meaning then along came Mr google (very smart fella ) and he put me in touch with you, now I am inspired to get the pens out again, Many thanks

  10. I did this poem as a freshman in college in a speech class and have shared it over the yrs. and gave it many times parents of young children. Thanks for printing it (freshman yr. was 1956)

  11. James Bartz says:

    Dear Mr. Fowler,
    I believe that the poem, “Clay,” was penned by my mother, Garnet Rhodes, sometime in the 1930’s. I chanced upon it the other day while rummaging thru some old papers.

    I believe that the poem was first published in the El Paso Times, but I am not sure. I decided to include “CLAY” on my website, http://www.westboundstage.com/poems.html, along with her picture, although she was only about ten years old when the photograph was taken.

    Thank you and your readers for their sentiments regarding the poem. It has influenced me in much the same way.

    James Bartz

  12. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for this update. I checked out the James Bartz website and I see the “correct” final line–could change that form no more–as opposed to the “never more” shown here. Many thanks again.

  13. Ray Fowler says:

    Thank you James and Kathleen for sharing your thoughts. I agree it is a beautiful poem.

  14. James Bartz says:

    My mistake.
    After further research, I have found that the poem was published in books before my mother was born.
    I have corrected my website, http://www.westboundstage.com/poemsGarnetRhodes.html to reflect this new information.
    The typesetter of the newspaper article correctly gave her credit for the article, but incorrectly credited her with the poem, which she was just fondly repeating.
    I apologize for this error.
    James Lynn Bartz

  15. Lauriel Cover says:

    I remember my Great Grand Mother “MOM”( Gartha Belle Hefflin Davis Mann)reciting this beautiful poem to me..60 years ago..and I always thought MOM wrote this poem. I believed this was one of Mom’s poems. MYSTERY SOLVED .

  16. Henry Mushet says:

    I come across this poem when I was a beaver leader and I read it at a parents meeting and you could hear a pin drop and yes there were a few moist eyes. I lost my copy and could not find it when I wanted it and now I will put away in my file of favourites.

  17. sen says:

    I first had an encounter with this poem at the age of 14 or 15 . . . upon graduating from High School I followed the will of my heart and went for teacher education. Now at and already a high school principal, i would have episodes of recalling bits of lines and phrases of this poem. The feeling of awe and inspiration that I got from reading the poem more than 30 years ago remained strong and haunting. . . I tried and tried and tried to find the copy of that magazine which had it on its pages but sadly I could not. Then this site . . . Thank you so much.

  18. Ray Fowler says:

    sen – So glad you visited the site and found the poem. God bless!

  19. I first heard this poem when I was a small child and my father used it in his talk given in our wards sacrament meeting. I love the principles found in this inspired author’s work. That is, as parents, teachers, and mentors or whom ever has influence on the tender minds of children, will realize that they as teachers have the power to influence the children for good or bad. Family is the essential unit of our Father in Heaven’s plan of salvation for His children here on earth. My wife and I have raised 4 sons. We used the principles found in this poem and also found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ to help us mold them into men who honor and love their families and Our Savior. I am grateful for the influence of this simple but profound message in this poem and for our Savior and His influence on my family.

  20. I know that this is a Mother’s Day poem, but the first time I saw it it reminded me of God how he made Adam and Eve out of clay. It only makes me more suspicious that the author is unknown.

  21. Rebecca says:

    I learned this poem when I was in my elementary grades from my older sister who loved poems and I was influenced to live them, too. It just came up to my head to search this poem though I forgot the exact title. Thank you for posting it.

  22. Manoj Augustine says:

    I read this short poem in my BEd classes 25 years ago… accidentally,I came across rayfowler.org…I got the lost treasure now… thank you so much..

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