Owl History

           for Tatjana and Doug

Emerging from nests of superstition
owls were the omens
that darkened fields and children’s rooms.
Prophecy scattered from beneath
their silent wings
at night when their faces were soft
against the stars. With one eye for wisdom
and one for disaster they remain
unerring in flight
as they slice into shadows with a claw.

The chill in the call of an owl
has crossed entire continents
bringing comfort to some
while others heard the devil
speaking through a bird
announcing a harvest of ashes
for a stillborn to inherit.

Sometimes an owl appears in disguise,
wearing a cowl to pass for a monk. Sometimes a monk
takes off his cowl to reveal
his round face and the feathers
encircling his eyes.

Owls outlived the shamans
who believed their hearing was so acute
they listened to our thoughts. As for those
who ate an owl’s eyes
so they could see in the dark,
they walked off the edge of the world
when it was flat.

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