Encounter With A Gray Morph Owl

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.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

8 responses to “Encounter With A Gray Morph Owl

  1. Almost literally entrancing. Figuratively entrancing: no disputing at all.

  2. Beautiful. You captured an arresting moment.

  3. Moving rhythm, no need for rhyme, by who-oom-ever than,
    Poet Thomas Davis; very nice…

  4. Good going Tom. How good to hear your voice again.

  5. extrasimile

    This poem—at least at first sight—strikes one [me] as being old fashioned, deliberately so—and why not? Poetry is an ancient art. Ezra Pound’s ‘Make it new,’ is old news. ‘Make it true’ seems better, so long as we are careful with the question, ‘True to what?’ I can’t help seeing parallels between this poem and the one I just put up ‘A Surgery for One’. In my case, the whittling away went into the making of the poem. In yours the poem is large in detail and feelings; the particulars live in the lines. A poem must work hard for its conclusions, though. I can’t decide if we come to similar conclusions or not. Still on the surface, these two poems are remarkably different. Let’s investigate a little. I confess it to you, Thomas, I wish I’d written those last two lines.
    And started whittling the way an owl’s eyes sheered
    The wildness from the spirit of a man.
    I’ll start at the end with ‘a man’, for clearly the subject here is a man. Sure the owl is important, but the man is validating the owl’s presence. If a screech owl morphs in the woods…?
    But perhaps all owls morph in the woods or do so when man is present. We, as a species, put a lot of anthropological weight on the owl’s shoulders. It runs the gamut from Minerva’s owl to the owl and the pussycat. [The latter being one of my favorite poems.] And this one is clearly—even though the label ‘senseless’ is applied—seems to personify and cause fear and darkness: mother nature in her most foreboding costume, primitive and primeval, one scary being. When an owl morphs, what does it morph into?
    Ghost feathers touched his face and spooked the song
    Wrung from the owl into his blood as whiteness.
    Thomas, that’s scary enough for me, thank you.
    But what about that conclusion?
    … whittling the way an owl’s eyes sheered
    The wildness from the spirit of a man.
    Is this a whittling just to cut wood? Whittling one’s time away. Or is it fashioning—crafting—wood into something beautiful and valuable? A metaphor for creation or a statement about how life wears one down. My poem left the man out—in truth he was whittled away. Your poem…I don’t know… In both cases ‘the poem of the mind’ is being formed. One must have a mind of winter, and all that. Still, as anybody knows who has tried it, whittling has to be done against the grain; it can work to reveal the figure hidden below the bark. “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” [Gandhi]
    It’s been a cold old-fashioned winter, hasn’t it, Thomas?

  6. It is the mad things (going out into the storm) we do that inspire the soul. “Ghost feathers touched his face and spooked the song . . .” — love it!

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