Nathalie sunrise reflection silver sea
Silver soldering
by Beth McDonough

File to sharp brightness on both sides,
then butt each seam hard at its twin.
Exert gentle pressure to make ends meet,
slick a flux brushful all the way down.
Stipple a little on a snipped-off strip,
real silver solder at the meet of the cut.
Bind it up in thin iron wires. Not that tight.

Build mini-firebrick homes in the forge,
set a nest of those same skinny wires.
All so unlike tin soldering…iron and glob;
this whole job must be warmed
to a dulled just-red, with a tad more
torch play of flame, now
roar it up the wait of the join.

There’s a moment of bubbling up borax,
strange colours and stinks.
However often you’ve done this, you think
what if this time nothing floods?
But it does. A glisten turns silvering river,
mercurial, healing. The job stopped,
tongs ready…and quench.

Arguably, it’s all preparation, and perhaps
some still strange realisation,
that sterling solder sheet, marked “easy”
resolutely, is not. Unless there’s no choice,
“hard” always suits much better.
No-one likes sticky “medium.”  Avoid “extra-easy.”
Temperature scales tease with words. Well, so they say.

PHOTO: Sunrise Reflection Silver Sea by Nathalie, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I trained in silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, and I suspect there are aspects of that way of working which would later be very similar to what drew me into writing poetry.

McDonough 1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Beth McDonough’s poetry appears in Magma, Causeway, Gutter, and other publications. Her reviews appear in DURA and elsewhere. Her pamphlet Lamping for pickled fish was published by 4Word, and an earlier pamphlet Handfast was co-written with Ruth Aylett.