catholic poetry room

This week’s poem in the Catholic Poetry Room is by Alfred Nicol.                                                                                                   

The Guitar Maker

Like the signature in maplewood
of sun-splashed rain,
this man’s bright pattern must remain
beside the workbench where he stood
smoothing the grain.

Deprived of work, he would not rest
for fidgeting;
he lived to build a living thing
that, by impassioned hands caressed,
might learn to sing.

This shop is where his spirit is.
Twelve months a year,
the world arranged to meet him here,
arriving in trussed packages
from far and near.

Rosewood came from India,
came from the Caribbean sea,
from western Africa
came ebony.

Tonewoods from earth’s four corners sent
he stacked here, stored
beneath an image of Our Lord,
who made of him the instrument
of their accord.


Alfred Nicol’s most recent collection of poetry, Animal Psalms, was published in 2016 by Able Muse Press. He has published two other collections, Elegy for Everyone(2009), and Winter Light, which received the 2004 Richard Wilbur Award. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New England Review, Dark Horse, First Things, Commonweal, The Formalist, The Hopkins Review, Measureand many other literary journals and anthologies. Nicol’s poem “Addendum” was included in the 2018 edition of The Best American Poetry. Please visit his website at

“The Guitar Maker” first appeared in First Things.


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