The Poetry of Ellin Anderson

"The moping owl doth to the moon complain."

Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard


Ellin Anderson

Rider of darknesses, I chart my flight
Where the brine-scented chalky sea-mists blanch
The shifting faces of deceptive night;
Softer than thought, clasp talons to a branch,
Ruffle brocaded feathers, hone my bill,
And cast my topaz lantern gaze to where
The white aurora trails its shimmering bars;
Then, give my soundless body to the air,
Drop to the ground, sweep scythelike to the kill
And rise again with gaping beak to fill
My eyes with velvet and my mouth with stars.
Night shakes us out, as sleep frees memories,
Spilling us forth, as dreams release desires,
From dripping caves, from fastnesses of trees,
From palisaded cliffs, from pointing spires.
With courtly grace, we dance an owl's pavane,
Spiraling with each other, or alone,
And laugh to see our grinning death's-head faces
On many a rotting countryman's head-stone;
While the conspiratory night-winds fan
At stately pace, our nightbirds' caravan
To your well-lighted and well-ordered spaces.
Upon your sterile tapestry of lawns
We find a rich and fertile harvest-home,
And long before a human morning dawns,
Gardens and grass are dewed with blood and foam.
We see you huddled in your towering nests

Black silhouettes within a golden lair

And wonder what brute force of thunder shook
Heaven enough to trap the lightning there;
Then, sated and content, your feathered guests
Swoop up to where the God-colossus rests,
Perching close by to glean a sharper look.    

Our only code is that of beak and claw;
Survival dictates that the rabbits cry.
Our nature holds us to the avian law
That states the weakest of the brood must die;
And, true to doctrine, your humanity
Demands submission as the price of love;
Torment for its own sake is your trespass,
Crime that fits cruelty like an iron glove.
Some night you'll hear me wail, and think to see
A staring owl, and find, instead of me,
Your own blood-hungry face behind the glass.

2008 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved.
No part of this work may be copied or used in any way
without written permission from the author.

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