Saturday, August 30, 2008

Buying Locally by Anthony McCarthy

For Phila

dusty Saturday morning in August,
The music store in the dilapidated building on Sixth Street,
Looking for the kid’s new instrument,
She’s heard of one there.

Good lord, guitars.
All shapes, ages, some
configurations you can’t believe could work.

You see sparks in her eyes ,
dream colors of post-war chemistry,
and you almost have to pinch yourself awake.
Strange, ancient electrics,
The risk of death modulating the frisson of stage fright?
Talk about your performance edge.
Even you, who curse the too-too-solid body,
have got to admit,
they’re really something.

Ancient sliders,
Spirit mediums conjure Commodore Bing in a lea
exiled in a decaying New Hampshire mill town,
depression winter escapes to “Havaii”.
Another points to Opree
A cursive text in red glitter worn.
unreadable, unrestored, Road Show unwashed.
A Nashville palimpsest, though Bangor is closer.
And a ‘one-string’,
Not so designated, but a complete outfit,
with beater and bottle.
The can resonator, sprayed leftover opalescent blue,
like an old pickup by, you hope, a craftsman-scholar-bodywork guy,
Is that Bondo?
“Can’t out funk that,”
You tell the owner.
But he can, he’s got the LP!

Alas, to business.
“This one’s on consignment”, he tells her,
“adjusted the action myself.”
She waits your advice,
That’s why you’re here.
Look down the neck,
“Who can tell in this joint,
nothing straight or level?”
He offers a meter stick,
swallowing your pride,
adjusting your bifocals,
you take it.

“Yeah, looks good.
Only way you can tell is to play it.”
She tries a Sor study, one in A,
Good. Then the Bb,
Bb, the test of all flaws, the limits of resonance.
The bar chords tell all.
She does all right. The action’s good.

She still, wants you to decide,
“’s your money”, you say.
She vacillates,
“Return policy?”,
Flexible, trusts his stock,
and makes the money back on strings and service.
Better to have a customer than a sale
She takes it.

You find an ocarina,
clay, tenth up from about G with chromatics.
Filthy, she can’t believe you put it in your mouth.
“Been here forever, five bucks.”
You can’t top it.

“One-string” : A beaten monochord played with a slide, as recorded on only a couple of legendary dates with the mysterious LA street musician Eddie “One-string” Jones.