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Fiona Sampson

On Listening

            Evening, you bring back everything the bright dawn scattered.
                                                                                                   – Sappho


Under the sound of the boiler –
what? A radio,

wind in the chimney,
voices from next door?

My ear strains past them,
catching the pitched hum of the pump

unstoppable as grammar.
The cochlea twitches, its tympanum flexes –

but nothing resolves itself
in form,

satiety of hints
                        and fragments:
 
listening remains a kind of question,
the ear a question-mark.

Its desire for pattern
hints at loneliness.

Of course I want the tutti’s
wide-flung arms,

the mountain-conquering cadenza:
their rush of emotion

welcoming me
to the bright crowd in the concert-hall.

And yet, this restlessness –

as if only the night outside,
its stars and standing water,

can bring everything home, clear as a bell:
every note.

Fiona Sampson

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