Spent part of the morning staining a fence, observing the swift and easy rise of minutiae by which Life lets us know how relentless it can be.
How long, i wondered, would it take for the small legions to take down this fence? A little longer, now, where the stain drags time down to a slow crawl.
The tint laid upon the grain also highlights something of the seasons-long dance that shaped the tree, and then the happenchance intersections of skill and expedience in the milling of these planks.
There is something deeply satisfying in observing woodgrain.
Observing that notion, i reckon it must be nearly time to get back to work on my ‘one’ guitar; i’ve been refinishing it in fits and starts. My dad built that guitar as a project, and since it could stay in tune and had reasonable action, he handed it to me to learn on.
When i moved to Mexico in 1988, i took that guitar, whom i’d named Pedro. In the patio of Calle Banderas, i became at least slightly able to play.
Pedro has been around the world with me, and if he’s often enough elicited raised eyebrows and or open scoffing at his looks, well, that seems fitting. He’s like those fortrel pants of my girlhood, the ones that repelled snobs as seamlessly as they repelled dirt and wrinkles.
With any luck, these coming months i’ll have the time to refinish him yet again.
Meanwhile, here’s a short suite of poems about wood. With any luck, in the coming months, i’ll have time, space and means to record performance versions, with musical and percussive accompaniment.
1. The Will
What looks like boldness: to break down instruments and use parts
to rebuild other broken down instruments. But my father was
practiced at métissage; six children’s worth of testimony to one
Besides which, he spoke of will. Not in some post-sixties, hippy-trendy, Carlos Castaneda book kind of way. Yet I read it with grudging recognition.
Yes, but not quite yes. That’s it. But not. It gradually grew clearer how much Don Juan withheld, how much he played
upon the tropes given, and that hunger for real, true magic.
There isn’t any, incidentally.
2. The Way
What passes for lightning: the sudden move after long examination, or
song sprung as if in an instant from a bed where it has waited, thrumming
low through scarifying winter. You constantly hunt lines that make sense
of the blur, that codify and confirm what’s true.
Sometimes, it is simply to please your ear, your eye, your own search.
You can see through mountains, if you take pains.
And that’s not magic, either.
3. Memory of Wood
My friend Stephen once woke at night, feeling singing wood around him, in an old house grained with living. Wood breathes even after death. Can bend, rebound, resonate, resound. Never ceases to harbour song.
And you can make of that what you will.
4. Unreasonable Colour
I dropped my one guitar on concrete. Of course, the neck broke. The guitar shop pro said I’d never bring it back. I didn’t tell him I’d already started. My friend Eric lent me studio space, growled around gruff-voiced at the inconvenience, couldn’t keep his yellow-raven eyes off that long swan of wood. When I told another expert that I’d stripped it down to bare wood new, he said I’d surely killed its voice. He didn’t add the smoky thought that it was worse because I am a woman;
but it is true, I stained it emerald blue.
5. Root Chord
My father had made this one guitar of pieces gleaned from here and there, inlaid uneven fretboard bars of shell by hand, with bushman’s tools. It has that glory
of my friend Marcelle, flaunting fortrel pants at faculty gatherings, cause the beauty is what fills and animates. The body was once an acoustic bass, Quebec spruce stamped 1949; bridge, a carved canoe; six string neck, nailed on at the farmhouse table. Eric raised his hammer and I saw back trough time, just in time, stopped him. I fetched a hacksaw, cut through clean.
It helps to know what you’re breaking, but the root of it is belief
wood will carry song.
all my relations,