The Instrument Maker

Margaree Little

Before he taught me about the glass he taught me about the copper,how to cut the narrow pipe where he’d marked it,different lengths for different notes,then how to sand the edges down, make them dull and smooth,line them up on the sawhorses. We’d wear two sweaters,winter coats, masks to keep the dust out. It was cold in the basement:it was January, outside snow fell on top of snow—twenty miles further to the coast, to Rockland, ten miles inlandto the farmhouse where the smell of hay came up from the barnand into the kitchen, abstractions in the light from the gooseneck lampbent over the worktable, learning about the glass,how to place a slender sheet under the drill, attach the diamond drill bit,lower the drill so it almost looked like it hadn’t touched at all—and then lift it, and then lower it again, to make a hole.And the trick he taught me when I stayed late, how to make one cutand then radial cuts around it, each an equal distance from the center,and if they were in the right relationship to each otherthe glass would break into a perfect circle, a single holeexactly in the middle, like the meadow of snow, one treeclean against it, that I passed on my way back.

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Margaree  Little

Margaree Little received her B.A. from Brown University and M.F.A. from Warren Wilson College. The recipient of a 2013 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and scholarships and residencies from the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig, Ireland, the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Little was a 2016 Bread Loaf Bakeless Fellow at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France. A Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry, Little teaches creative writing at Kenyon College. (Author photo by Rebecca Seiferle)

Rest is a vivid, powerful debut collection examining the human cost of crossing the border. In 2010, Margaree Little was working for a humanitarian mission near Tucson when, along with a group of volunteers, she found the unidentified body of a man, who a medical examiner would later estimate died at least six months before. This discovery serves as the jumping-off point to a stunning, elegiac series of poems commemorating an imagined, unknown life. Anchored by Little’s keen eye and unsparing self-reflection, this collection asks us to examine how a single life can affect so many others.

“Unerring cadences, an arroyo of words awash in grief for our closed borders, the many lost whose hopes the Southwest desert claimed, who ‘walked in circles first . . . certain that this way, yes/this way was north;’ these haunting poems build phrase by phrase, hypnotic, obsessive return to ‘the man we found,’ ‘how his eyes were gone, how through that space/ the earth could look out . . .’ Like vigil candles placed on improvised altars, these poems bear witness as they burn and burn.”
—Eleanor Wilner

“Framing Rest is a list of the 253 bodies discovered along the Arizona-Mexico border in a single year. At its center is one body that, through an imaginative act simultaneously embraced and resisted, becomes the story of a man, a story at once personal and political, a story through which Margaree Little discovers her own story. ‘There’s no secret to this,’ she says, ‘You look for a trail and then follow it.’ Yet these bracing, vulnerable poems embody the central mystery of poetry: what was riven is made whole.”
—James Longenbach

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