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In the gardens of the Premier’s palace

with its white Baroque facade there are

children’s swings and a red roundabout.

The linden trees the old Archduke planted

though leafless are evergreen with outbursts,

festoons of mistletoe, their berries

opalescent in the gentle wintry light.

A dozen or so mistle thrushes graze

amongst the leaf mould and peck in the branches –

but one, perched at the top of a tree, sings

its trilling, boundless, woodwind airs as if all

of the provinces were quiet and listening.




The ancients thought it spoke seven languages.

Clement of Alexandria noted its

‘harlot’s chortle’, Aristotle its

fondness for mistletoe. ‘Sanctus, sanctus’

it calls in the Armony of Byrdes.

‘Stormcock’ some name it – its notes heard above

the roughest, the loudest of weathers.




A scattering of snow begins to fall.

A child’s ball rolls from nowhere amongst the birds,

which rise, their long, white-edged wings flurrying

the flakes, their rattling alarms muffled –

but the one perched on a topmost branch still sings

its fearless arias.




© Copyright David Selzer

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