Guillermo Delgado’s “Untitled #23″, 2011, acrylic on wood, 8” x 10″
The Gavel Maker
It started with trees when I was twelve.
And Perry Mason. When Your Honor smacked
the world into order with one whack
of his mallet, maple on cherry, a final
definitive, That’s that, justice prevailed
and the clever, but not-so-clever-as-he-thought
killer got his comeuppance. I wanted a part
of that, the last word in the courtroom,
the period at the end of the sentence.
I knew how to translate the trees.
I could hear the dark secrets in the heart
of walnut, the contagious laughter
in a pack of Aspen, the sighs
of the white pine. The buckeye
winked my way when no one
was looking. Persimmon
puckered up for a kiss.
Time to open conversation.
The work takes time, takes patience.
I do it all by hand, no lathe.
I craft three pieces: a head,
a handle, a sound block.
They’re not the same, the gavel
banged by the student council president,
the one opening the New York Stock Exchange.
What gets handed to the Speaker of the House,
hammered when the house is sold at auction.
Each gavel speaks from the life
of its tree. I do not silence it, lock it tight
in a foreign shape. I release it:
say what you will. I give it a tongue.
Wood always speaks to wood: guitar
to mandolin, chair leg to roof beam.
Library table to card catalog.
Hear the hum in the courtroom:
prisoner’s dock, jury box, gavel’s knock.