A nightingale for Gilbert White
April 5th, 1768
Buds and shadows fatten, but the garden’s lean.
A London smoke crawls west, and cucumbers
are tortoising across the sweat-sweet dung.
A nuthatch jars and clatters in the oak;
rooks get cocky in the Selborne copse. At last
the air is quick with bee-flies, kites and larks
and April falls across the parish like stained glass,
like rest for the broken-backed. The diarist
dashes off one word to stand for spring – Luscinia!
Colour blurs from every quickened hedge
into the woodsmoke hours. The nightingale
loops speechless syllables on every thorn.
Attention, after all, is prayer. Nothing goes unseen.
First published in Kith.