He sharpened metal with his bicycle,
pedaling to turn the whetstone
mounted on the crossbar.
Before I saw him, I would hear

that happy little dove song he played
on a whistle to advertise his arrival.
Women sent their children out
to the street with knives and scissors,

and they stood, transfixed, as sparks rolled off
his wheel. He’d hone the blades and test
them on his palm until the lightest
touch might break the skin, bring blood.


When I returned to Spain years later
I saw him again, working at the curb
in front of a café. By then he must
have been the last sharpener

in the city. He knew the ancient trades
were dying, and we talked about the days
when his craft had a brotherhood.
He refused to play his pito for me,

said it wasn’t worth a pito
anymore and neither was he,
said he was saving his pito in case
some tourist lady wanted to toot it.

The poetry of David Lee Garrison has appeared in many journals and anthologies. Two of his poems were read by Garrison Keillor on his radio show, The Writer’s Almanac, and Ted Kooser featured the title poem of David’s new book, Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, on his website, American Life in Poetry.