Mary Oliver





Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard 

His beak could open a bottle, 
and his eyes - when he lifts their soft lids -
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder -
Blake, maybe, 
or the Book of Revelation.

Never mind that he eats only 
the black-smocked crickets, 
and the dragonflies if they happen
to be out late over the ponds, and of course
the occasional festal mouse.
Never mind that he is only a memo
from the offices of fear -

it's not size but surge that tells us
when we're in touch with something real, 
and when I hear him in the orchard
flutteringdown the little aliminum
ladder of his scream -
when I see his wings open, like two black ferns, 

a flurry of palpitations
as cold as sleet
rackets across the marshlands
of my hear
tlike a wild spring day.

Somewhere in the universe, 
in the gallery of important things,
 the babyish owl, ruffled and rakish, 
sits on its pedestal.
Dear, dark dapple of plush! 
A message, reads the label, 
from that mysterious conglomerate: 
Oblivion and Co.
The hooked head stares
from its house of dark, feathery lace.
It could be a valentine.


spoken = Shelley Lynn Johnson