The lost nightingale, a poem in memory of John Keats

A new work by Nessa O’Mahony

 Portrait of John Keats by Joseph Severn.  Photograph: DeAgostini/Getty Images

Portrait of John Keats by Joseph Severn. Photograph: DeAgostini/Getty Images

 

i.m. John Keats 23rd February 1821

Not a word of a lie.
In Carton, May 1955,
the dawn chorus swelled
by a new voice that warbled
through the dark hours
of a Kildare plain.
As the sun rose, it thrilled
1,000 grace notes,
startling thrushes out of tune,
bemusing blackbirds.

Woodapip woodapip
went the unanswered call
to fellow travellers
who’d left sub-Sahara,
followed trade winds
back towards haunts
in Mayfair and Oxted,
to once again sing
for Emperors and clowns.

The solitary blow-in,
drowsy and numbed
by an Irish summer
of late sleet, bare beeches,
finally rose, buffeted
on prayer and wing
towards the Wicklow coast,
casting little shade
as it passed above
fields of alien corn.

Nessa O’Mahony is from Dublin. She has published five volumes of poetry, the most recent being The Hollow Woman and the Island (Salmon)