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Don’t Kill the Owl


– photo from scottks on Flickr, used with Creative Commons license

…I would have given
a great deal
to have invoked some connection,
eye to eye,
to know what he thought of me

here in the world – his world –
his gauzy and furzy acres,
sour, weedy, lush,
But except for the hiss, he did not make
the least sound, simply stared

as though if he wanted to he could lift me
and carry me away –
one orange knife for each shoulder, and I,
aloft in the air, under his great wings, shouting
praise, praise, praise as I cried
for my life.

– Mary Oliver

I read this poem before bed one night this week,
a week filled with frustration
and expectations dashed.

Expectations like, “My children should put on their shoes when I tell them to.”
and, “I should understand and approve of the choices other people make.”

Then I dreamed that my chickens were being attacked.

In my dream I pulled out a huge blade,
fired up with fear and anger,
and I thrust that blade towards the intruder that was attacking my rooster.
An owl.

The owl fell back as soon as the blade touched it,
and I was immediately filled with regret.
Some people came and cleared away the dead owl.

I was left to fix the giant holes I’d stabbed
in the fencing of my coop.

As soon as I awoke the meaning was clear.
In fear and anger
we attack that divine messenger
come to carry away
thoughts, feelings, habits, expectations
that no longer serve us in our lives.

Things we may have even considered killing
with our own two hands
as I have considered killing
that rooster.

But we get attached
to our roosters
no matter how much suffering they cause us.

We rush to defend them
instead of welcoming
the owl.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Emily van Lidth de Jeude October 26, 2013, 1:10 pm

    And yes.

  • Christina Atkinson November 5, 2013, 8:22 pm

    I love Mary Oliver’s poetry. Lately, her poetry has been the divine intervention in my life. Thanks for sharing this one and how it intersected with your story. Beautiful.