From the branch above, half concealed
in new oak leaves, silent, the barred owl
watches with giant eyes, round as the pool
at my feet. Its body, is all of a piece, no indentation
even for a neck. If I could reach high enough,
my fingers might stroke it in one long move
from head to base, flat-handed, barely a touch,
feeling the slightest tickle of feather, like the way,
as a child, I’d kneel by the mud puddle, hover my hand
over the brown water, lower my arm bit by slow bit,
trying to touch the surface without a ripple, no disturbance.
Like the way I’d learned to stand so still I could study
snakes, my eyes on the thin cord of their bodies,
no noise to make them curve into an S and rustle
into the brush. Like how I could slink away
from a room full of yelling voices before hands
could aim a slap at the side of my head.
Adept at sidestepping, but swallowing a fill
of shame as I left. Adept at silent watching
from a branch, my feathers so still you’d think
they were formed by the fingers of a potter,
molded and fired to hard immobility. Only careful hands
can keep it from shattering. I don’t want to shatter
any fragile thing, any small thing that glitters in the light,
that dazzles for its short moment. I don’t want to be
the shattered one, like a vase left too close to the edge.
My talons clutch the branch so hard it could bleed.
Unlike this owl who watches for wriggling in the grass,
and with a sudden swoop, fueled by fiery desire,
dives into fear, and with mouth and feet extracts
exactly what it needs, blood and all.
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