Cyrus, always I try to put my soul
into building a guitar,
here on Cuesta de Gomerez,
full of sovereign guitar-makers,
street slanting up to an arch
of the colossal Alhambra.
What I worship is the feeling of the wood
in my hardworking hands,
wood selected and dried
for a three-decade minimum,
so I’m refining Mediterranean
or Canadian cypress,
Macassar ebony, and Lebanese cedar
that my paternal grandfather chose,
Abuelo Leonel who perished
the Satan-hot August
right before I was born
into a dynasty of on-fire
flamenco musicians and dancers.

Imagine, a top notch guitar
means perhaps a hundred hours
of dedicated labor, and, so help me,
I don’t work by the clock—
Sometimes it costs me
most of a day to adjust
the nitty-gritty strings and frets,
to insure the vigorous, brave sound
we’re famous for in Granada:
due to the vega’s dry air,
instruments from the Andalusian school
are (no doubt about it!) lighter,
distinctive—like a palace starling
or a peerless voice
that gently breathes and sings
in a stone basilica on Sunday morning—
acoustic splendor and tone to rival
the able makers in Madrid—

At the fabled Moorish citadel’s hem,
I bring my busy-as-hell hands
to the timeless task of planing
and judge the thickness
of my newly launched guitars
with my tried-and-true fingers.
The tradition, I tell you, is to present
your very first guitar as a gift
to the regal, lullaby-whispering woman
who latched you to this bustling,
wondrous world:

Oh what an exhilarating day
when my never-fail mother, Primavera,
carefully inspected my first ever piece,
proclaiming (almost singing it!):



Copyright © 2022 by Cyrus Cassells. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

In my recent pilgrimages to Granada to honor the spirit of Lorca, I have stayed with friends at the foot of the Alhambra near Cuesta de Gomerez, a street renowned for its guitar makers. After studying the history of flamenco guitar and dance in Granada and Madrid, as well as the craft of building a guitar, I imagined this conversation with one of the area’s principal guitar makers.
Cyrus Cassells