from The Luthier

The Workshop


Your workshop, loud with errant bees that come
Laden and singing where an amber comb
Hangs from the roof, a gleaming stalactite;
A place where birds and children are at home,
Aladdin’s Cave of wonder and delight.

Knives, gouges, scrapers, bench in disarray,
(“Confusion well-arranged” we hear you say)
Racks, drawings, phials, an Amati mould
And, Sorcerer’s apprentices, we stay,
Nor find the magic fail, the spell grow old.

Enthralled, we watch the lilliputian plane
Delicate, sure, unmask the secret grain
And, feather-light, the shavings drift and curl.
Outside the lemon tree’s in flower again,
And glossy, black, the ponga fronds unfurl.

“Look up,” you tell us, “to that giant fern,
The perfect Scroll! all hand an eye need learn
Of Beauty, Balance, Poise, and Symmetry,
Late in the night remembering it, I turn –
Knowledge too deep, and skill too great for me.

But there’s my model! Miracles abound;
Knock, the door opens; seek, the sought is found.
That bird now, listen! Hear the music run!
A tui, showing me how a note should sound;
Something of honey in it – yes, and sun!”

* * *

Did Stradivari too, I wonder,
Loose words like thunder
When a brash knife slipped?
Impatience is a tool
Used wantonly, and always by a fool,
And here’s my scroll
Its sweet curve cut and chipped!

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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