Miguel Hernandez, In Tree, Makes Nightingale Calls for Pablo Neruda

for Jim Ciletti

Years before, but not so many,
jail and dying
of lung disease, loneliness,
grief, Miguel Hernandez,

goat-herder from any village, Spain,
familiar with the stinks,
scrambles Madrid branches and mimics
a bird no larger than his heart

for the visiting Chilean whose native
climate prevented such songs.
my friend tried to imitate,

like clarinet jazz,
and eerie, outside a bar
in Pueblo, Colorado,
after shots of Eastern European,

liquor. Vehicles could run on it,
that plum brandy, Sli-sli-slivovitz.
Miguel Hernandez climbed another tree

to be a second nightingale answering
and Pablo Neruda listened
again to a call so softly mournful
Keats might have dreamed it

his last, alert minutes. The April 1898
British journal Birds claimed,
“They cannot endure
captivity, nine-tenths of those caught

dying within a month.”
Neruda’s Memoirs do not say
whether Hernandez balanced on his heels,
bent his arms triangular, flapped imaginary wings.

Aaron Anstett's second collection, No Accident, won the 2005 Balcones Poetry Prize and the Nebraska Book Award in Poetry. A new collection, Each Place the Body's, is forthcoming from Ghost Road Press. Recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Backwards City Review, CAB/NET, the minnesota review, MiPoesias, Redactions, and Word For/Word, among others.(jalopytown@yahoo.com)

Boxcar Poetry Review - ISSN 1931-1761