Reel, spool, and bobbin —
Cycles have their allure;
Torque stops: What will endure?
The hum breaks off like sobbing.
Old singers are dead, but discs restore
Their whir, the glamour and appeal;
And yet, to have heard it all before
Seems hardly now to keep from binding
Invisible filaments that go on winding;
Swatches of song that make one wheel
Are déjà vu: bobbin, spool, reel.
Revival doesn’t mean that purity alone
Is prized, or tendon prized up from bone,
But only that a seamless chord rekindle
Bobbin, reel, spool, and spindle.
Treadle clef, organ, and pedal retool
Phantasmagoria, and now draw out instead
Of useless grinding heat, seized up and dead,
From twill and wiles the “Lay of Ultima Tulle”;
Arpeggios unwind — reel, bobbin, and spool —
A thrilling core, magnificat of thread.
NOTES for Students of English
Singer – A play on words: 1) A person who sings; and 2) a well-known brand of home sewing machine named for its inventor, Isaac M. Singer (1811–1875).
Make one wheel – A double meaning: “they complete one cycle” and “they make a person reel about.”
Chord – Suggests both a musical chord and a cord.
Treadle clef – A play on “treble clef,” the notation for musical instruments, and treadle-powered sewing machine.
Lay of Ultima Tulle – A “lay” is a ballad or song, especially an ancient one, such as the medieval “Lay of Igor’s Campaign.” In the textile industry, the lay of cloth describes how it is laid out to be cut into pieces for garments; the “lay” of a fiber rope describes its twist.
Ultima Tulle is a play on “Ultima Thule,” a name from ancient European geography denoting a place in the far north or beyond the borders of the known world. “Thule” is two syllables pronounced THU-lee, “th” as in “thought.” “Tulle”— the cloth out of which ballet tutus are made — is pronounced like “tool.”
Magnificat – A song of praise.