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19 January 2017

Pepys and a nightingale

A new poem by Janet Sutherland.

By Janet Sutherland

Pepys wrapped a rag around his little left toe,
it being new sore, and set out walking,
coming by chance upon his nightingale,
which called me back to mine. I saw the past,
to the rear of the farmhouse there were yews,
rifle green and murderous to cattle,
and, once, my father heard a nightingale
so out I went to wait on soft dead ground.
It’s plain, he said, plain brown, just listen and
under a hundredweight of feathered branches,
that crushed the air to a tense silence,
a nightingale sang, out of full darkness.
His heart, as all hearts are, disguised;
a secretive bird in an impenetrable thicket.


Janet Sutherland is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Bone Monkey (Shearsman Books).

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This article appears in the 11 Jan 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's revenge