The Guitar Maker

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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About the Author

Tim Bete, ICL Poetry Curator To submit poetry to be considered for the Catholic Poetry Room, visit our submission guidelines page.

Tim Bete is Poetry Editor for and always searching for the best Catholic poetry from today's poets as well as those of the past.

Tim's poetry has appeared in Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, The Asketerion, and the Poet and Contemplative Blog of the Discalced Carmelite Friars (Province of St. Therese). His first book of poetry is The Raw Stillness of Heaven, of which one reviewer wrote, “If you are Catholic and think that you do not like poetry, this book will change your mind.”

Tim is former director of the national writers' workshop at the University of Dayton—a Catholic, Marianist university. He's a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCDS) and often trades poems with his oldest daughter, who is a Dominican Sister. He says she's the best writer in the family.

Tim's writing has also appeared in several editions of the Amazing Grace anthology series (Ascension Press), theChristian Science Monitor, Writer's Digest magazine, and numerous parenting magazines. His latest book is Wanderings of an Ordinary Pilgrim

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