To Become A Nightingale
Struck dumb by Universal Credit
I entered the hedge-school of charity shops,
prised apart jackets of musty spinneys on the men’s rail
dense with tweed, leather, rayon, polyester
looking for subfusc/olive – found
two brown gabardines and a rain-cape.
I got to work with thread and kitchen scissors,
cut a length of dowel for wing-struts,
made a balsa wood tail and daubed it in cherry-red shoe polish
with a coat-hanger wire to raise and lower it
and sat in a sycamore three nights in the park.
No luck. The doctor suggested a course of Bjork,
Berkely Square and Blackbird Singing In The Dead of Night.
I self-medicated between Axl Rose and Ziggy Stardust
till an episode on a rooftop (it was the herring-gull yodels)
got me sectioned. I absconded without prescription,
nested in copses by ring-roads and flyovers,
quivered gabardine wings in blackthorn winter; lay on
bin-liners inside my wet sleeping bag craving a mic.
One morning I upped sticks holding a sign: ‘Nightingale?’
and was dropped off finally somewhere South East
near woods at dusk with my battery running low.
What I heard next was the real thing
as it shook and shocked the darkness awake.
I wrote this:
‘Nightingale with your voice-box, your jewel-box, scattering pearls and opals,
garnet, beryl, moonstone, cornelian out of the dazzling bush of night –
no artificer or jeweller can come close’
and left it under a stone on the grass.
I came back next morning to this reply quill-penned
with wet soil: You a poet? Jug jug jug tereu tereu.
Then this message flashed up on my screen:
‘No search engine trawling the fetch of the known world can find me; no app
or device command the body of my song as I shudder you now into deepest space.’
My phone died as the song began
others like me shuffled were gathered in branches
taken shuddering into the eyes of nightingales
as feathers shrugged and shivered in us beyond leaves
and imagined wings tail-bones out of our beaks
gapes bright yellow I cannot cannot begin
cannot repeat explain what we
what we were singing and singing and