I am fascinated by owls. Always have been. When I discovered this poem I was stunned by Oliver’s powers of observation, her use of language. Meet Mary Oliver, nature’s Poet Laureate. Field reporter of life’s intangibles. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for American Primitive (1983).
His beak could open a bottle,
and his eyes – when he lifts their soft lids –
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder –
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
down 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 heart
like 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.
[Listen to an audio clip of Margaret Atwood reading “From An Italian Postcard Factory”.]