Close-up of the face of a female snowy owl.
Close-up of the face of a female snowy owl.
Image by Karsten Paulick from Pixabay

A Snowy Owl Sighting in the South

A poem for the new year.

Is it the focus of this owl,
whose white feathers draw in the light
and the very day around her,
with unafraid and unbirdlike eyes,
unblinking on New Year’s Day,
that frightens me so?

We had approached too close,
my father, my son, and I,
scouting for easy firewood
as we crossed the corn stubble,
inverting her speckled plumage
with the flecks of snow in our hair,
before I knew she was not a barn owl.

She is a far-away visitor
perched fully two feet tall,
an Arctic hieroglyph
on a blanched fence post,
far too far south,
and far too close to us now
to avoid exchanging words.

Is she taking our metrics,
measuring by the rabbit,
clapping her beak at my small son –
or does she convey a warning
of the polar vortex
following her too southerly migration?

Her feathers, thick like fur,
stir at a wind so stiff
it sways the distant stacks
of the oil refinery
as if they were windchimes,
and pushes their uniform clouds
over the treeline to our tense perimeter.

What becomes of a predator
so blinding in a dingy world,
who laid but one egg in her lonely life,
watched it be eaten by a tattered dog –
who spends her days plucking field mice,
an unbecoming forager’s existence
in a now forager’s world?

My father, my son, and I
murmur unimportant awe
at her portentous presence here,
and she ignores it with dignity,
indifferent to New Year’s Day,
our worry for firewood
and the future of mankind.

A compassionate and opinionated human being. | Fiction author and visual artist in Central Appalachia. | Give my newsletter a try:

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