‘In Solitude, for Company’ W.H.Auden
There is still warm-blooded life in these battered fields.
Among flailed twigs – a flicker of blue-sky crown, a pale breast;
your movements like the flap and pause of a late bramble leaf
turning over in the autumn wind.
Mimicry, the protective conduct of hedge birds – presumably
perfected on former edges of wild understorey, still serves you well.
There is still life up here where winter hangs on
in the riever’s den up in the Hen Hole, overshadowed
black peat path weaving into the hill, roar of
a deep hidden burn, scatter of old rockfall
desolation, the cold boulders we climb.
Almost unbearable, this mountain gloom. Then
over the meltwater diapason
from under a wet rock, comes your spirit song.
understand air as an open system, adiabatic, chaotic;
how to be tossed in it, how to surf the wind’s upthrust,
to swoop love songs in four-dimensional space. You two
are nothing to do with me. This demonstration
is for continuing an idea of air, beyond me,
my boots on the ground.
you voice my sorrow for the retreating horizons.
Very close to the earth, and very close
to the kitchen door, I caught you
full face, and there was no face.
Little black beak little eyes
dark as deep time.
I knew you were there all the time
when I searched the bushes with binoculars
in the green spring. Yours was the inexplicably
sad song. But now you stand plain among yellow
remaining leaves in the field-maple, singing
quite cheerfully. Perhaps to me.
(Tears in the Fence, 2021)