Is my favourite. Who flies
like a nothing through the night,
who-whoing. Is a feather
duster in leafy corners ring-a-rosy-ing
boles of mice. Twice
you hear him call. Who
is he looking for? You hear
him hoovering over the floor
of the wood. O would you be gold
rings in the driving skull
if you could? Hooded and
vulnerable by the winter suns
owl looks. Is the grain of bark
in the dark. Round beaks are at
work in the pellety nest,
working. Owl is an eye
in the barn. For a hole
in the trunk owl’s blood
is to blame. Black talons in the
petrified fur! Cold walnut hands
on the case of the brain! In the reign
of the chicken owl comes like
a god. Is a goad in
the rain to the pink eyes,
dripping. For a meal in the day
flew, killed, on the moor. Six
mouths are the seed of his
arc in the season. Torn meat
from the sky. Owl lives
by the claws of his brain. On the branch
in the sever of the hand’s
twigs owl is a backward look.
Flown wind in the skin. Fine
Rain in the bones. Owl breaks
Like the day. Am an owl, am an owl.
George MacBeth (1932 – 1992)
Illustration by Hua Tunan
Two grandsons stayed last night. It was hot. They moved from sandpit to orchard to the place with two snails, one of them dead, and they played with a small rubber owl that represents them and is always in danger. They fly it from one end of the orchard to the other using swoops and dives and other very powerful ideas. There is a larger owl, too. This one, a plastic model purchased as a bird scarer, only takes part in some of the story. It saves the baby owl. Then it was abandoned under the bonsai tree table. Once it brought some food. Then it was abandoned at the shed door. Once they couldn’t find the parent owl at all, and everything stopped. Completely.
They played bikes. This means Noah riding about for a bit, and Finn following on foot because he is too small to find the pedals. It also means stopping still and talking to each other earnestly about many things. Once Finn acted out a message with moving robot arms and a slight klinking of the head from side to side, which Noah understood and answered in a similar way.
Once they met on the lawn and Noah asked, ‘Did you get any snails?’ and Finn answered, ‘Sometimes.’ They always park the bike across the gate to the orchard, which is the gate to soccer parkland.
They asked me to ring Max and find the lost part to the forklift and they asked me about gallstones. Noah showed me his moth bites and asked if he would die, and then he asked me why I was growing a beard.
Two young children came into the bookshop with their father. They were on their way to visit their mother. The girl, who was nine, read Harry Potter. She liked magical things.The boy, who was 11, read biographies and books by authors from other countries. He chose I am Malala. Then they chose some bookmarks. Their father said that he didn’t read, but these two, they never stopped.
The children bobbed about and spun; they liked cats, too. And owls. And reading. Plus balloons. When she had finished reading all the Harry Potters, they were going to watch the movies, but not all in one night.
They were hungry. They cradled their purchases and crowded out the door. I could hear them reminding their dad that they were all going to watch the Harry Potter movies. He was nodding, saying, yes, yes. They stood in the doorway to watch a bike go past, and the boy said, ‘I love that bike’, and the father said, ‘You love everything.’ Then the father and the son looked at each other, and the boy held his book up, and they both laughed.
Artwork by Jen Betton