Today in my email was the Atlantic Gallery of Owls, including this stock photo by Liu Guoxing, from Getty. It reminded me of a poem I posted in 2013 by M. Wyrebeck. It’s the opening poem in her book Be Properly Scared, and I think the best one. She died in 2003, from the cancer she had been battling most of her adult life. This photo made me think of the poem, and it’s worth reprinting here.

Night Owl

.                         You are nearing the land that is life
.                         You will recognize it by its seriousness.
.                                                                  Rainer Maria Rilke
Driving my bad news the back way home
I know I’m in the land that is life
when I reach my favorite stretch of road—fields
flat and wide where corn appears soon after
planting the soil tilled, night-soaked
and crumbled into fists.
Ferguson’s barn is somewhere
at the end of this long arm of tar
and as I near it, something grazes the back
passenger-side door, luffs parallel to my car—
a huge owl on headlight spray floating,
holding night over the hood to see
if this moving thing is real, alive,
something to kill—then gliding in
close as if to taste glass.
The road levitates, buffeted on a surf
of light, the fog-eaten farm disappearing
as I ride into starlessness, cells conspiring
so I am bright-flecked and uplifted—is this
what it feels like to be chosen—to be taken
under the wing of something vast
that knows its way blindly?

M. Wyrebek