It could be a valentine

Little Owl Who Lives in the Orchard
(from House of Light by Mary Oliver)

His beak could open a bottle,
and his eyes — when he lifts their soft lids —
go on reading something
just beyond your shoulder —
Blake, maybe,
or the Book of Revelation.

Never mind that he eats only
the black-smocked crickets,
and dragonflies if they happen
to be out late over the ponds, and of course
the occasional festal mouse.
Never mind that he is only a memo
from the offices of fear —

it’s not size but surge that tells us
when we’re in touch with something real,
and when I hear him in the orchard
down the little aluminum
ladder of his scream —
when I see his wings open, like two black ferns,

a flurry of palpitations
as cold as sleet
rackets across the marshlands
of my heart,
like a spring day.

Somewhere in the universe,
in the gallery of important things,
the babyish owl, ruffled and rakish,
sits on its pedestal.
Dear, dark dapple of plush!
A message, reads the label,
from that mysterious conglomerate:
Oblivion & Co.
The hooked head stares
from its blouse of dark, feathery lace.
It could be a valentine.

~ by mortarandpestle on February 15, 2008.

7 Responses to “It could be a valentine”

  1. I’m not familiar with this poem and I thought I was familiar with all things Mary Oliver – which collection/book is it from?

  2. It’s from House of Light, but was also published in Ploughshares at some point, — 1989 says Google. I’ve added the info to the actual post.

  3. oh so beautiful! i’m hooked!

  4. YES – dah I see you have shared that under the title. Her work is lovely.

  5. No, no, I added it after your comment MLC — feeling very sheepish that I hadn’t included it in the first place. Mary Oliver is really amazing; she’s rapidly becoming a favourite poet for me and I’m excited about finding more by her.

  6. Mary Oliver makes me sigh every time. Sometimes her poetry is almost too much for me to take in all at once, and I have to leave for a bit and come back again later. Thanks for sharing this one, I had not read it before.

  7. she’s one of my favorites too.

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