from The Luthier

At Work


Three fantails dart, staccato, where you stand
Inquisitive as children are to see
The silver scraper flashing in your hand,
Caught by the sun, and moving tirelessly.

Long hours you’ve stood there, scraping, measuring,
Intent, exact; for in exactness lies
That lovely tone by which a wood will sing
And, lacking which, all song, all music dies.

Summer, cicadas, and you, working there
Making in memory a timeless place
Where we, for ever children, stand and stare
As formless wood takes on both form and grace.

Day’s end; the shadows gather, gentle, brown,
The shavings glimmer on your workshop floor,
Reluctantly you put the last tool down,
Salute the bees, and, sighing, shut the door.

from The Luthier: poems (Reed, 1966), © Ruth Gilbert 1966, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Waiata New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 1974

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