The Bard Owl


The scolding birds caught first my ear, then drew my eye
into the tangle of midnight black pine tree silhouettes
pressed hard against the late afternoon palette of deepening blue
strewn with soft blooms of white, my glance caught then by

the barred owl with his back against the black bark
and his head turned away, composing silent sonnets
like a feathered James Dean, unhurried, unconcerned
as the night gathers its arguments for sustenance

while the scolding birds draw an invisible fence, a perfect square
around the predator, from branch to branch to branch to branch,
hemming him in, keeping their little ones safe at least until he decides
to fly; one chastening jay peeps up the scale and ratchets up one pine

branch by branch until he is out of rungs to the sky and he
is loosed upon the mercy-strewn void, free-falling back down the octave
and disappearing into the snow while the barred owl,
finished now with silent poetry and mathematics turns his black eyes

to mine and in them i see not owl but deep into the star pocked universe

where none of us are safe
even as we draw invisible borders around
our hearts; sooner or later we reach
the peak and cannot more protest, despite ourselves,
out of breath we

catch the bottomless black eyes
of the barred owl,
and we fall back

the ready earth.

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