2nd Prize: Pam Job

Benjamin Britten Walks Out in Spring

He’s early enough to note a nightingale,
charming its way into the day with a titter
and a chink, its song condensing
into melody, sweet after dog fox barks.
The dark swoop of a late barn owl
drags away the dawn over the heath
and its cry files the air as it glides.

Ben has ears that pick apart the songs of birds,
fillet each note from its flesh of sound,
and now, on the anvil of his ear,
he lays out the chiffchaff’s promise;
its two metal notes shuttling to and fro
on the loom of light, weave a beat
to hammer out the heart of spring.

From reeds along the marsh, Ben sifts out
whispers while their seed heads sweep the breeze
and on the sand path, a squirrel darts,
jumps aside with a whirr and snaps its teeth.
Ben listens to the gaps between each sound,
which amplify the note that’s gone, the one to be,
and shape the salt-laced air he breathes.

On the beach, pebbles clink, percussive,
and a slither of shells fills each tread,
sounds spliced by a herring gull’s whoop
as it snatches a fish from a wave’s break.
An avocet, its cabaret suit of black and white,
delays Ben’s eye as it dips and wades.
He hums counterpoint to its tin-whistle cry.

Home now, he harks back to the nightingale,
hears a cadenza; a cello perhaps,
once itself a tree, picks up the notes,
rolls them round in curves of wood, suspends them
up in air for the bird’s throat to catch again;
above, below, between, behind, the sounds come,
as they should, like the best kind of love.