The Tavern Guitar

“Stand where I am standing,” he said,
“across from the wine colored window.”
The man was full of spirits, I could tell.
I was tired from the road and in a funk,
sick of wine and, well, I thought
that I might drink his words
and by his breath get drunk.
“See?” he said, “a frosty mirth of dust
lights up the strings of this guitar.
Don’t touch! No. But linger
to observe, instead, the gentle curve,
the well-wrought head
and neck of richest virgin wood.
See the seasoned grain,
the fine nut color it retains.
Breath deep its musky air–
put your nose up close, just so,
the stench of wine is thick in here.”
I obeyed. The man seemed pleased.
Until I breathed the dusty air too much
and sneezed.

“Careful, man! Take care! for I have had it tuned.
And it is said that when the moon
is of a certain disposition,
there will approach a wandering soul
–a musician!
who will shake the strings of dust
and release the well-kept timber,
release the whole of what we know and feel
is locked inside this case of cork.
Oh, he will know his work. He must.
And what he will release, we
will capture in our ears, we
will hold inside our heads
until our very deaths rob us of its sense.
We must be careful of our breaths
around this delicate instrument.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” I said,
wiping my nose on my sleeve.
“Take no offense, but do not say we.
For before another moon has risen,
whether it be disposed to good or ill,
I must leave.”

“That is of no consequence, I think.
Now, have a swig–drink, man, drink!–but see there–
there!–the opal glimmer of the bridge
which in this stained glass tavern light
is God’s hopeful, drunken touch!”

“I do not see it,” I said, rude, sober.
“Not as such.”

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