The luthier tunes to resurrect the styles
Of watered silk and butter in a churn;
In wavering moiré the harpsichord compiles
From disassembled ivory and lacquer
A tremblement and palpates still to learn
How tones align with shuttles of a jacquard.
This primitive mill — a river and a wheel —
Out of gross grain has clarified detail;
Grosgrain straps recover the smack of the flail,
And fishes whirl like bobbins in a creel.
Deus ex machina spinets are insistent
That sheer reprising overcomes the sloth
Of fingers at the keyboard plucking the cloth;
Tension in the song goes back to a sough,
And immortality tightens in an instant.
NOTES for Students of English
Luthier – (Pronounced LOOT-ee-ur) A person who makes stringed instruments such as violins and guitars.
Watered Silk – Silk cloth that has been given a lustrous wavy pattern by being pressed between rollers or plates; prized for clothing since the Middle Ages.
Moiré – (Pronounced mwa-RAY) A ripple pattern in a fabric.
Tremblement – (Pronounced TREM-ble-ment) A quivering; in music, a tremolo or trill.
“Shuttles of a jacquard” – A jacquard (pronounced JACK-ard) is a type of loom controlled by perforated cards; it was developed c. 1804 by French inventor Joseph-Marie Jacquard (pronounced zha-KAR). The shuttle of a loom is the thread holder that moves from one edge of the cloth to the other between the threads of the warp.
Grosgrain – (Pronounced GRŌ-grain) A strong, close-woven, corded fabric.
Flail – A traditional tool for threshing grain.
Creel – A play on two meanings of “creel”: 1) a wicker basket for holding fish; and 2) a metal frame in a textile mill for holding bobbins.
Sough – (Pronounced like “soft” without the “t”) A deep soft rustling sound like the wind or surf.
The keyboard of a machine to punch holes in jacquard loom cards. Such a machine is called a “piano machine,” “piano card cutter,” “piano punch,” and other similar names. Just like a real piano, the piano card cutter has a “pitch,” but unlike the musical instrument, the piano machine’s pitch means, not an exact tone, but the spacing of the holes — the number of threads per inch.