Nightingale Farewell


I’ve still got nightingales on my mind! This poem is pretty accurately what happened on my last day on holiday. For those of you who don’t know the intricacies of bird behaviour, song birds sing for mainly two reasons: to attract a mate and to hold territory for nesting and feeding. Nightingales migrate from Africa to Europe in spring, returning at the end of summer. They have the reputation of being the most musical of the European songbirds. One individual can sing up to 300 song phrases.

Last day in France – binoculars at the ready –
after sudden rain I walk along
steaming tarmac into pine forest shade,
pulled by bright sobbing and glissando glide –
I know you’re there by your jazzy come-on;
I’ve tuned my ears to see round corners!
My first glance upwards towards the telephone cable
over-shoots – the bird on the wire looks so plain –
I don’t catch on to your whispered tones. When I catch up,
you’re magnified in a circle – I marvel
at your modest plumage, warm brown tail
and throbbing throat. A little brown jizz!
Your bel canto leaps, your triplets and tremolos
are a high wire cabaletta – heard only by me.

Maybe tomorrow you’ll fly south, silently tracking
the fine line between light and dark, between
seeing and not seeing, while I fly north towards grey skies,
terraced houses and blackbirds in the park.

2 thoughts on “Nightingale Farewell

  1. There isn’t much variety here; huge ravens, eagles and hawks in the countryside and house wrens, doves and robins in town. So noisy! I wonder if dinosaurs were as noisy?


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