Owl in Retrograde
In truth she must move more
like a rodent: claws scuffling the puny branch
without pity, and feathers
fetid as newspapers closed around the decaying field
mouse in the garbage.
She's not been cleansed
of malice by her open face, even when the kill
is clean: prey swept from its running
like a plane pulled up at lift-off,
punctured on both sides, flown swiftly
through the phantom dark.
My poor puppet, embodied
Giver of a few luscious moments
in a lifetime: a husband hearing the ghostly blowing
first, shushing his wife. Both of us
the soft column of silence
between us meaning, You've made me a home. Where self-
loathing used to reside, it has been
banished, the roof of us enameled and moon-
struck as a compass.
Though the owl is homeless, forever,
isn't she also moonstruck? And glad, I hope,
to return, flaring like a match
in all this sadness.
At my bitterest, she became less
starling than black hole, eating matter—
what Hell is—in the tender
phlox and teardrop-
What stood her among the years
of embedded shrapnel,
the bullets' flung
The day risen into stained glass
for any vandal
to smash. Memento
mori, heeled in the field, standing in
for the flown or downed
Paula Bohince is the author of a poetry collection, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods (Sarabande Books, 2008), and the recipient of a 2009 fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.