“The Visitor” by Gibbons Ruark
Through rich, sensory details with flowing, enjambed lines, “The Visitor” by Gibbons Ruark is an elegant prose poem which elaborates on the sensuality of music through the vivid experiences of the first person narrator instead of the visit of a piano tuner, the inferred visitor in the title. Utilizing the narrator’s impressions, Ruark portrays the ‘blind’ (l. 1) piano tuner in the first lines as a frail, vulnerable, dependent person, ‘holding the arm of his helper’ (l.1). Although ‘He hesitates at first’ (l. 1), the narrator notices the almost magical transformation the piano tuner undergoes—his helplessness is replaced by grace and agility as ‘his hands glide over the slow/Keys’ (l. 4 and 5). The helper is absent throughout the rest of the poem, as if the blind piano tuner has gained independence through the experience of music. Already, the reader is presented with the power of music, its ability to seeming heal the defects of the piano tuner. The opulence of music is then introduced through the auditorial image of the keys ‘ringing changes finer than the eye/can see’ (l. 5 and 6), also accentuating that the quality and clarity of music excels what sight cannot provide. The wires the piano tuner touches are described to be ‘dusty’ (l. 6), evoking a sense age and timelessness. They ‘quiver like bowstrings’ (l. 7) as the piano tuner ‘twists them one notch tighter’ (l. 8), likening the wires to the string of a bow as it releases sharp and accurate sounds which cut through the air with agility and ease like an arrow. Here, the structure of the poem changes. The previous discordant and punctuated sentences, imitating the disharmonious sounds of the untuned piano, is now replaced by enjambed sentences which lack punctuation, imitating the smooth and fluid sounds which can now be produced. Ruark moves on to depict the relationship between the piano tuner and the piano, showing intimacy as ‘he...
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