Sport 41: 2013
I always looked in the window, but to really appreciate his enterprise you had to push the tinkling door and enter the dark forest. Exactly what he specialised in was never obvious. Packed shelves whispered beneath their creaking branches. General goods, repairs, card tricks—I witnessed them all. If you brought in a key, he would find a lock to fit it. One wet day, he trued my umbrella. I once saw him cutting a boy’s hair. The mother was applying lipstick in a cracked mirror off to one side and, when the boy stood up, she took the seat herself. Sometimes he gave free sweets, but mostly you deposited your coins on the counter for careful inspection. Beyond a rack of discarded photographs (50 cents each), was a doorway with a curtain, through which a workshop and some sort of bicycle-piano contraption could sometimes be seen. Kids spoke of a cellar, skeletons, ingots, access through the sewers. But I only believed in the mysteries I could see, like the fact of the attic—in which, it was clear to me, he was building an airship capable of lifting the entire shop, or perhaps that was a rocket I could see nosing from the chimney as I made my way quietly out of town, never to return, my shadow strong in the timely moonlight.
for Jocelyn Hill
The tuner in his 80s opens up the boards
of our old upright, sits down and plays
his tuning tune—a rollicking swing number,
which bounces foreign round the room,
bending the hairs of his inner ear
toward some perfect template we can’t hear.
‘Well, that’s how it used to be,’ he says.
But these days he goes through each string
with the electronic tuner—‘safer’—
the technology pitched beyond perfection—
‘and none of us,’ he pats the piano,
‘getting any younger.’
The top end is a little flat
and a few hammers need their felt
replacing, but what’s really causing the problem is
—he draws his arm from deep within,
holding high a small dry body—‘this’.
How the sparrow got in is anyone’s guess,
but if you can imagine falling down a well
you can surely appreciate something of its distress,
wedged between the dark vibrations, its plaintive carol
briefly echoing a simple scale, before being transposed
into all the fumbled melodies
our flailing fingers manage to raise.
Nose to the grindstone, eyes to the floor
—leave turf wars and consensus behind.
You must work like never before.
Optimise rather than maximise, for
distributed leadership tweaks the design
—knives to the grindstone, lies to the fore.
Engage with the process or there is the door
—step outside and you may be some time.
You must’ve never liked work before.
In art and restructuring, less should be more.
The process is working if you can find
knives in your gallstone, cracks in your floor.
Your deliverables require more shock and awe,
or you’ll take the gloss off our shine.
Never must you work like before.
The matrix will snare, divide, and conquer
—changing hearts, changing lives, changing minds!
Head to the gravestone, eyes to the flaw
—work you must, like never before.