Meeting the Gaze of the Great Horned Owl by Robin Becker
As if coming from a distant room
in the woods
the owl burst down,
flung himself like a skydiver and hovered
above me. I covered my face with my arms and ran
towards him -- strange -- because
I was afraid.
I had disturbed the quiet
of the feathered god
who rested now, overhead, in a dead tree
where jays and flickers pecked and cried.
The owl acknowledged each note, each tiny, colored movement
by twisting, on its calm trivet, his troubled head,
the dappled body perfectly still,
and I admit that I wanted
the creature's attention, to compete
with the smaller birds,
so I made my human noises and the owl attended,
turned his brown, comprehending eyes
down to me and met my stare.
I moved my arms -- slowly -- in an awkward imitation
pawing the air like an animal awakened abruptly
or just beginning
to know the power of her wings.
I held the owl's gaze as I swayed
and wondered what he saw:
something large straining to rise
and failing. I thought of my younger sister, dead
by her own hand, and I wanted her back, to show her,
as I never did in life,
how fear and longing sometimes go together,
how one small percussive surprise
in the trees can turn you
from one self to another, this one with wings.