Standing by a Coppice Gate, Reading “The Darkling Thrush”
The city gate loomed at century’s end,
Left ajar, when a blast-beruffled thrush
Sang to December’s bine-stems. Poor bird.
I pictured it, pitied it. Much later I learned
Coppice was not another word for copper,
Nor bine evergreen exactly. A fire burned
In my head: meanings shape-shifted
Until the dictionary’s won out and the gate
Led to a thicket, bine to a twining plant.
Nevertheless, Hardy’s aged thrush remains
More pigeon than thrush—with a dash of sparrow—
And still as beautiful as its wind-cleft name.
I am fourteen again and the bird’s no older, either,
Though truth insists I cannot tell thrush’s note
(Cold, wet, darkling, midnight’s, London’s)
From the lark’s at heaven’s gate. I read on,
Half right, half wrong. I feel a boy’s joy
That is two parts darkness, one part song.