by Thomas Davis
He saw the gray morph owl, its yellow eyes
A spectre deep in darkness, as he climbed
The ridge where birch trees ghosted, bent as skies
Shrieked cold and lake waves slammed against black stones.
Its whitish face, curved bill, and pointed ears
Leapt out at him the moment that he seized
The steep-slope sapling. Senseless, ancient fears
Gasped through his veins and, beating, spiked his heart.
Inside its cedar trunk, the owl, three times,
Sang, startled at his human face, and spread
Its wings as if it had the strength to climb
Past dread into a hunter’s surety.
He wondered at the madness that had forced
Him out into the storm, his restlessness
So powerful it stirred his sleep and coursed
Through legs that moved him out the door.
Ghost feathers touched his face and spooked the song
Wrung from the owl into his blood as whiteness
Whipped wildly out of sight in wind along
The ridge’s denseness edged against the sky.
He stood, knee deep in snow, the slope so steep
He hardly had the strength to stay upright
And longed to feel the warmth of lovely sleep
Out of the bitter cold beneath the snow.
The roaring waves, the wildness of the night,
Knifed down past flesh to marrow in his bones.
He turned and trudged toward the kitchen light
That meant a fire and shelter from the storm.
Back home, beside the fireplace, darkness seared
Into his thoughts, he took his pocketknife
And started whittling the way an owl’s eyes sheered
The wildness from the spirit of a man.