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Etruscan Nightingale

For N'Deaye Ba

Over the gentle valley
a nightingale is singing
among the trees that April
reawakens. At midnight
in a house against a rock
we listen from high windows
to that voice the ages say
is weeping, that sobs a while
then stops, then pitching higher,
drops a further rain of tears
on unresponsive stillness.
Keats’s life too quickly poured
over the lip of silence,
who wrote to raise this darkling
gift from dead weight of sorrow.
His last hard breath was given
to such mild Italian air.
Waking still while day-birds rest
and only known when hidden,
the generations made you
sightless image of that grief
pressing unassuageably
our souls down to lightless clay.
No, you are not crying now,
there beyond the little stream
invisibly. The falling
notes revive again, a song
that knows no rote nor ending.
Human days and moons mutate,
quietness and the woods retreat;
still, where night obscures, appear
this pausing fountain’s echoes,
heard across the peaceful gap
in the chambers of each heart,
changeless and unfailingly
invented, and pour for us
a solace from the darkness.
Framed between the light new leaves,
a small, brown, unseen body
trembles in her happiness.

John Gibbens


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