The Goldsmith’s Apprentice

by Keith Chandler

You will change into ‘trashers’, canvas shoes,
when you lock yourself in at eight.
Collecting your strongbox from the safe
it will be weighed. It will be weighed again
when you clock off at six.
You will sit at a vice with apron attached
to funnel the filed off dust.
You will blow your nose into newspaper
and not put grease in your hair.
Similarly, when you swill your hands
(your lunch box having been inspected)
it will be into this tank of sawdust
into which you will also expectorate.
All these – shoes, clothes, snot, sawdust –
will be burnt off at the end of the month
into a rough bar called an ‘elmer’
worth more than you earn all year.

In return we will teach you to saw and buff;
to solder, blowpipe dangling from your lip
like a forgotten cheroot;
to cast by ‘lost wax method’
rings and brooches, each mould unique
then melted out, weeping fat tears;
to hammer flake so fine
it will float like a feather above your face;
to draw out wire for filigree work
shinier than a girl’s hair, stronger than her love;
to forge, clinging like slinky fingers
to Beauty’s neck, chains so slim
no one but yourself may see the links.
You will breathe this atmosphere of dust
and soft percussion, dying at last
stoop backed, purblind,
your lungs lit up like a golden branch.