Owl | Paulann Petersen


—Klamath Falls, 1982

Pale and ghostly, one kind lives
in the long-abandoned barn
near the old farmhouse I call home.
These small specters raise their young
a few hundred feet from where
I try to rear mine. I am not
feathered in cream and tawn.
My face does not take the shape
of a heart. But I too fret
the tightness of my nest
and guard against my fledglings
leaving it too early. I see these birds
only when they—white phantoms—
glide from the barn at dusk. 
                                                 By day
some great-horned ones
often roost on the poplar branches
hanging above our back yard.
Dark bronze giants,
they while away the late afternoon
watching me trim the grass, pull weeds,
scour the barbeque grill on the deck.
They keep track of our kitten as it plays
on the lawn, knowing if such
a ball of fur-covered fat were to scurry
at night, it could be had
in one swift swoop and strike. 
That name carried by both kinds
is a moan, a one-syllable
koan, a dominion of sound.
Its roundness rolls itself
only so far, then ends with my tongue
pressed tight against my mouth's roof.
As if enough has already
been said. 
                   Often I am alone
out back. When I raise my head, I see
the amber eyes of a raptor
staring at me. I know to remember—
from these days onward, into all my days—
I have been watched intently
by a wide-winged god. Grace
could hardly 
                       be more.

                       —Paulann Petersen


One Small Sun, Salmon Poetry, 2019


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