Skip to main content

Blackbird


Poetic people go on about the nightingale's song. Not that we hear it down here in Devon.  But I listened to one singing in an old oak tree at my daughter's in Essex, and - yes - it really was beautiful.

But this spring and early summer I've been struck by how lovely is the song of the blackbird.
There are so many sounds, carefully - almost, it seems, thoughtfully - phrased.

We have one who performs from our roof ridge, as high as he can get so that the song can be heard at its best, perhaps also by as many as possible.  He can be interrupted, when he flies off with a harsh alarm call, but most evenings (and probably mornings too) he takes up position, and delivers.

Actually, it's much more than a straight delivery. 
What made me think there was thought, indeed listening of his own, was that he was creating gaps, silences that were as important as the sounds.  And I thought I could hear another blackbird not far away responding, who for his part was constructing his song around and between the other's.

It struck me that they weren't so much singing to each other, or even against each other, as saying something that needed saying and announcing their presence to whoever might be interested, while inviting the listener to respond by giving them the opportunity to do so, and paying attention to what might arise.

And so I found myself attending to the gaps: that which interleaved, the unwritten-upon paper between and around the text, the white that was waiting for the black, the empty pages ready to be filled.

Thus the silence somehow became as important as the sound, by virtue of his song, which I no more understood, than the original silence he was using so carefully.



The Blackbird on the Ridge


Are these words that crack the air,
bubble and whistle, mixed with silence?
Another gap.


And is it song, that calling out
is answered by another?
Followed by a gap


what thoughts are these, that
interrupt my words, broken up
by questions I cannot understand?


His voice continues, then it waits.
For now he’s as quiet as is this listener
seeking a word, like a blackbird


caught between bars of unwritten music
and uncertain words. We are both
trapped in a gap, while the air heals its tear.














Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A plague on all these houses

It's a great poem, Lowell's For the Union Dead.
I only recently came across it - at least, that's what I thought - but it's been grunting (I choose the word advisedly) away in my head ever since, especially that fourth verse.

Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steam shovels were grunting
as they cropped up tone of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

It took a little while for me to realise why.
Before (I thought) I'd read it, I wrote a poem about the new housing estates springing up round our little town. I was thinking about the various creatures that had lived on the field that was to be covered with houses - sheep primarily - and then those that were to follow.

The first were, well, a sort of dinosaur.

Here's my second verse:

At first it was the one-armed monsters,
set free within their caged arena
to trundle round, and gently paw
the ground, then pile up mounds of earth
accompanied by Lego men.

I was pleased with my trope, so muc…

Happy Christmas!

Christmas – or if you prefer, Solstice, Hanukkah, or just This Special Time…







Stop now.  For a moment, wait. And look.  From here you can see far. In this direction, where we’ve been – the climb, the ups and downs.
Now turn around. There before you lies the future.  At the summit of the year there’s time to rest, and be refreshed – let’s gather here, so we may share each other’s company, look forward to the new arrivals, lives to come travelling into this misty landscape, and in our brightness bring to mind those no longer in our group.
So drop your rucksack, get your breath back the old year lies behind – for now let’s all enjoy the present gift-wrapped here before us.


I’m quite sure this little poem has no great literary, let alone poetic merit, but hey we don’t always have to be polished, clever, neat or profound. Or original. Or elegant.
Especially not when you’ve just got to the top of a mountain.
But there is a definite and justified sense of celebration to be savoured then.
I’ve always loved moun…

The Cadence

He embraces the sheep
an ungainly bundle unusually tilted
now leaning back against the man
who bowed over, grasps with his knees
and left hand, to perform. Like a cellist

he knows how to play.
Fingertips splayed to tension the skin
right hand guiding across the bridge
a gleam of blades to separate fleece –
music from silence, wrapped up in wool.

The animal listens
accepting the prospect of resolution ahead,
resigned to his practised hands, grip of the thighs
the charm of the music
and caressing of steel.

He stretches his arm out
to reach high notes in third position.
Lanolined leather feet shift softly beneath.
The sheep tips back more to enable the soar
of melody heard only by them.

He lets fall the burden
accustomedly righting the sheep. He arises
to bow for a moment as if in acknowledgement
then straightens – the fleece being lifted
and folded, like music.

The performer resumes
with no pause for applause. He turns
to the next – there are more
many more waiting. So the music contin…