Inspired a ukulele made from repurposed church pews by the artist Zeke Leonard at Pentaculum 2019 — a craft and writing residency at Arrowmont School.


Photo by Dan “Soybean” Sawyer

Say an instrument is born with all of its songs
intact, DNA in the material from which
it’s forged. A ukulele fashioned from repurposed
church pews, the wood still holding ghosts

of parishioners in Sunday best. Their noble
intent, clean sweat of palms pressed in prayer
or maybe in some darker deal. Forgive us
our trespasses and the salt of tears

folded into handkerchiefs. The resonance
of hymns and the counter refrain of despair. A symphony
requires every note, harmonic and dissonant, even
the ones meant only for the confessional

of solitude. But nothing that sings is solitary. Music
culled from other lives, recycled from stiff-
backed pews into an instrument that lilts
and sways and whispers of Hawaiian sunsets

slack-keyed, loose hipped, dance with me
it says, even though the parishioners didn’t dance,
at least not where they could be seen. But who’s
to say they didn’t glide and twirl in dreams

of Fred and Ginger, of hula on the beach, of love
unfettered and infectious as a melody. Clean sweat
of palms pressed in prayer or maybe some higher
calling. All love songs are sacred, so sing them

to whatever heart will listen.


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