Instrument Factory, Brazil

It's simple enough to give away the coins in your heart, when dust
settles over a pool filled with mineral water and the dogs, those sleek
guards, raise their inky noses to a silver saxophone moon. Beyond Sao
Paulo, down a dirt road, men make French horns, flutes, and cymbals
with the delicate precision of angels. Blue-suited, they sit at tables: one
tests a saxophone, another welds the key of a flute. And each has tools
on the table, a candle, a blue welding flame. Stacks and stacks of half-
finished instruments crowd the factory aisles: bells of horns, all sizes,
rows of French horns hung on a green metal rack, pyramids of tam-
bourines and drums.I love to watch their mouths emerge, but I have
closed my own against the men with their suit coats hung over their
shoulders. Our guide runs his finger across my cheek, then down the
elegant neck of a flute. And the slim scraps of brass, shaved off, curl
like hair when they sweep the floors. Here, they use plastic for clarinets;
even the good wood, when they can get it, rots in the sun. Behind us,
a young boy plays scales in a testing room while vats for nickel and
brass plating steam behind windows. And the workers walk with horns
slung over their shoulders, the almost obscene curves shining in their
closed hands.

:: Kathleen McGookey, Whatever Shines (White Pine Press, 2001)

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