Richard Wilbur

A Song

As at the bottom of a seething well
A phosphorus girl is singing,
Up whispering galleries trellised notes
Climb and cling.

It is a summer-song an old man wrote
Out of the winter’s wringing,
He hunched in a cold room, back to frost’s
Sledge and sting.

Desperate, gentle, every phrase declines
As fruit to groundwork weighs,
As all things seek their shadows, yearn,
Yearn and fall.

She may be singing Iowa afternoons,
Lightshifting corn ballets,
Scattering stutter of windmills, each throat’s
Very clear call;

Nevertheless, the balconies are in tune
And all but a single child
Are hushed in sweet relinquishing, in
Praise of time.

But the white child is puzzled, cannot hear,
To loss not reconciled
Has heart room still for sorrows, needs no
Song or rhyme.