Ode to a Musical Saw

This entry is part 4 of 31 in the series Odes to Tools


No longer walking
the straight & narrow,
no longer restricted to the harsh
amens of service,
now it’s your turn to be held still

for the sawing of some
effete bow, generations removed
from any kinship with arrows.
But you’re free!
And this song of yours

might otherwise
never have been heard.
You put your whole body
into it, still ascetic,
but now for the cause of art.

There’s a sweet spot, the street
musicians say, & they find it
in you. Where the heart might be,
systole & diastole in perfect balance,
if you were more than cartilage.

The pure tone floats up
through two octaves of rejoicing
at your deliverance
from lumber.
Or is this grief?

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7 Replies to “Ode to a Musical Saw”

  1. Lovely, Dave. I am a longtime fan of the musical saw. (Do you know Tom Waits’ The Black Rider? There’s a lot of musical saw in that. The track “November” uses it especially gloriously.)

    “The harsh / amens of service” and “where the heart might be / systole and diastole in perfect balance” and “deliverance / from lumber” and then that kicker of a last line — !

  2. CGP, sarah – Thanks. I wasn’t sure when I went to bed this morning whether this was any good or not, but it doesn’t look all that bad in the light of day.

    Rachel – I don’t know if I’ve heard that album or not; I’ve been exposed to a lot of Waits by various friends over the years. I’ll keep an eye out for it. I have the deepest respect for his ability as a composer and arranger.

  3. Hi Dave,

    Thank you for writing this poem!
    I collect poetry about the musical saw on my website http://www.sawlady.com/poetry.htm
    I would like to ask for your permission to put your poem there, please (of course with copyright credit to you and a link back to you).
    My website has become a resource for musical saw players around the world, and I believe sawists would appreciate your poem very much.

    I particularly relate to the line “There’s a sweet spot, the street
    musicians say, & they find it in you” since I am a street musician myself. If it’s OK with you, I would like to put your beautiful poem also on my street performing blog http://www.SawLady.com/blog where I sometimes feature poetry about street performers (again, with due credit & link to you, of course).

    Thank you very much,
    all the best,

    Natalia (a.k.a. the ‘Saw Lady’)

  4. Hi Natalia,

    Please free to reproduce the poem however you wish – or even to modify it, adapt for performance, etc. – as long as I get credit as the originator (and a link back here if it’s online ). That’s the plain-speech translation of my Creative Commons licence down there in the footer. But I do appreciate your asking, and I’m very pleased (and a little surprised!) that a poem on a subject about which I know so little appeals to an expert in the field.

    I have actually checked out your blog once before, following a link from somewhere or another, and spent an enjoyable hour reading your stories from the streets. I thought the writing was top-notch. So I’m doubly honored by your favorable review. Thanks for stopping by.

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