‘I dreamt I caught a little owl
And the bird was blue -’
‘But you may hunt for ever
And not find such a one.’
‘I dreamt I set a sunflower,
And red as blood it grew -’
‘But such a sunflower never
Bloomed beneath the sun.’
Among the black yews, their shelter,
the owls are ranged in a row,
like alien deities, the glow,
of their red eyes pierces. They ponder.
They perch there without moving,
till that melancholy moment
when quenching the falling sun,
the shadows are growing.
Their stance teaches the wise
to fear, in this world of ours,
all tumult, and all movement:
Mankind drunk on brief shadows
always incurs a punishment
for his longing to stir, and go.
The owl ventured out from his barn perch
to search the forest floor.
To get some fresh air and exercise
and some fresh food for to score.
When all at once he saw a mouse
who looked just like the winner.
Thinking if he acted swiftly enough.
He would have his dinner.
The mouse was foraging near his home
amongst the leaves and clutter.
But then he saw the shadow appear
and heard the feathers flutter.
He knew right then to make his escape,
that he must keep his cool.
And foil the owls stealthy attack
and make him look the fool.
The owl came in fast and low.
His tallons as sharp as steel.
The mouse he feigned a sharp right turn,
then pulled a fast left wheel.
The owl flew past just a glance away
disgust upon its face’
The mouse ran home into its hole,
relieved to win this race.
And so it goes, the quest goes on.
Today the mouse is the winner.
The owl went back to its perch
with the rat he caught for dinner.
I am an owl
Soaring over obstacles
Yet always watching
My guard never down
At my best in the night
Darkness is my closest companion
Being alone keeps me sane
Those few moments
That no else can see
Knowing a little more
A little faster
Not exactly book smart
Not exactly street smart
My true voice heard by few
Only at night
When I’m Alone
When I can’t hide
Where I don’t have to pretend
Trusting only few
Letting them see all of me
The real me
I let them in
But only a few
Always ready to help
Anything that’s needed
I’d do it
Never letting myself weaken
Standing up for my beliefs
Soaring up and away
Always getting knocked back down
Flying right back up
I am an owl
With a flourish of colors
The owl is lead into
A thick and resilient forest.
The mist cloys the foliage,
And the hallucinations
Are one with the mirage –
Almost as if
Making love to the saccharine
Cacophony of the cicadas at night.
The tigers are asleep
From the drudgery of waiting.
The lions are drunk
With their relentless power
The vultures are lurking endlessly,
Hovering from one place to another
In search for the remains
Of hapless victims.
During the night,
The beasts are unassailable.
They are deeply ensconced in their
In their clocks that have no arms
And in their senescence that defies
Sense in what science has
The stars scintillate in derision,
And the owl sits there
Perched atop, emblazoned on the bosom
Of the forest with hoots
That are monotonously sepulchral.
The air of despair looms
And the shores,
The overture of the forest’s noise
And the hoarse cries of
The cajoling felines at night
Are swoon over by the vicarious
Song of angst.
You will never know
What an owl says.
You will never decode
Nor amass in fathoms
What he has in his round,
He sits there.
Heard, yet unnoticed.
This is how it works.
On eves of cold, when slow coal fires,
rooted in basements, burn and branch,
brushing with smoke the city air;
Some secret lure of time it seems
has called him from his country wastes
to hunt a newer wasteland here.
And where the candlabra swung
bright with the dancers’ thousand eyes,
now his black, hooded pupils stare,
And where the silk-shoed lovers ran
with dust of diamonds in their hair,
he opens now his silent wing,
I should be dumb before thee, feathered sage!
And gaze upon thy phiz with solemn awe,
But for a most audacious wish to gauge
The hoarded wisdom of thy learned craw.
Art thou, grave bird! so wondrous wise indeed?
Speak freely, without fear of jest or gibe—
What is thy moral and religious creed?
And what the metaphysics of thy tribe?
A Poet, curious in birds and brutes,
I do not question thee in idle play;
What is thy station? What are thy pursuits?
Doubtless thou hast thy pleasures—what are they?
Or is’t thy wont to muse and mouse at once,
Entice thy prey with airs of meditation,
And with the unvarying habits of a dunce,
To dine in solemn depths of contemplation?
There may be much—the world at least says so—
Behind that ponderous brow and thoughtful gaze;
Yet such a great philosopher should know,
It is by no means wise to think always.
And, Bird, despite thy meditative air,
I hold thy stock of wit but paltry pelf—
Thou show’st that same grave aspect everywhere,
And wouldst look thoughtful, stuffed, upon a shelf.
I grieve to be so plain, renowned Bird—
Thy fame’s a flam, and thou an empty fowl;
And what is more, upon a Poet’s word
I’d say as much, wert thou Minerva’s owl.
So doff th’ imposture of those heavy brows;
They do not serve to hide thy instincts base—
And if thou must be sometimes munching mouse,
Munch it, O Owl! with less profound a face.
Source: The Collected Poems of Henry Timrod (1865)