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.