Barn Owl

Daybreak: the household slept.
I rose, blessed by the sun.
A horny fiend, I crept
out with my father's gun.
Let him dream of a child
obedient, angel-mind-

old no-sayer, robbed of power
by sleep. I knew my prize
who swooped home at this hour
with day-light riddled eyes
to his place on a high beam
in our old stables, to dream

light's useless time away.
I stood, holding my breath,
in urine-scented hay,
master of life and death,
a wisp-haired judge whose law
would punish beak and claw.

My first shot struck. He swayed,
ruined, beating his only
wing, as I watched, afraid
by the fallen gun, a lonely
child who believed death clean
and final, not this obscene

bundle of stuff that dropped,
and dribbled through the loose straw
tangling in bowels, and hopped
blindly closer. I saw
those eyes that did not see
mirror my cruelty

while the wrecked thing that could
not bear the light nor hide
hobbled in its own blood.
My father reached my side,
gave me the fallen gun.
'End what you have begun.'

I fired. The blank eyes shone
once into mine, and slept.
I leaned my head upon
my father's arm, and wept,
owl blind in early sun
for what I had begun

by Gwen Harwood

Comments (11)

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hey guy how's it going. just finished bouncing on my boys Johnson to this poem. love the part with the owl it was pretty epic. I love the way Gwen Hard Wood talks about her father, pretty crazy. anyway I'm out hope everyone has a wonderful day and may communism reign on.
This would have to go down in my journal of powerful writing, right at the top.I have revered it for many years and it is there when i need to feel humbled or rescued.Beautiful and desperate at the same time.Outstanding.
Heart-rending story of the loss of innocence provoked by the loss of temper. What a huge weight of guilt to carry on one's soul for the rest of the child's life. What a price that was paid to learn to live in peace with the fellow creatures on earth. Very powerfully written,
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