Treasure Island

Michael Shepherd

(8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

Apollo Is Alive and Well and Living in Suburbia...

Last night, a great lute-player
as full of enthusiasm for the power of music
and its history of the human heart
as far as history recedes, as I remember him
forty years ago before his fame had spread,

handed his lute around the dinner-table
as if we were at some christening party
for the eternal birth of eternal music
in the eternal present moment…

the lute shining like a promise
of things greater and unknown..
yet… not unknown to the eager heart...
made of several woods, matured

for around eight years; like pearwood,
the driest wood known; all nature
had conspired (as poets put it) ,
the trees had conferred together

in praise of the music which they hear
hints of through their winter branches,
in their rustling young spring leaves,
in the wind’s dry whisper in red and brown late curling leaves…

and a man had put all this together
with its invisible fierce tensions held
by cunning of design, to permit
the gentlest sounds of laughter, tears…

a man who after years of skill
built into priceless treasures such as this
now works in La Jolla as a restorer
of heritage houses from the nineteen-hundreds…

and the lute itself! when holding it, it seemed
to have a ‘negative weight’ – as if
its very balance, laws of immaterial sound
made material in our human world

had made a thing of spirit, which begged
return to its very elements of ether,
sound, air, touch, and music’s fire,
the flow of love in laughter and in tears,

so that I swear, it had no weight
but rather, was its opposite…
he played an ancient song
composed before songs were written down,

recorded for us – its sole record, this –
by the first inventor, from the Italian courts,
of moveable musical type; a song
which transcended its Christian story

of sin and sorrow and repenting grief;
its music, roaming in its memory,
over Africa, Asia, all the length
and breadth of the human heart

recorded in the sound of music…
this the magic that rose in the air
around a dinner-table in a suburban house
touched by a boundless, weightless eternity of grace.

Submitted: Sunday, August 19, 2007
Edited: Tuesday, March 29, 2011

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  • Alison Cassidy (8/23/2007 7:26:00 PM)

    I can hear your lute, see it's graceful shape and feel it's weightlessness. Your words carry your wonder on wings. Sublime penning. love, Allie xxxx (Report) Reply

  • Chris Mendros (8/19/2007 2:22:00 PM)

    i suspected, being a god and all, that he'd find a nice home in a nice neighborhood.
    Nice work.
    God bless all poets. (Report) Reply

  • Ted Sheridan (8/19/2007 8:17:00 AM)

    I love the strings and they have the ability to take you into a dream state. I would love to attend Albert Hall in my next life. (Report) Reply

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