Owl Hour

Owl Hour
by Katherine Gordon

Once the sun’s beyond the trees, the Great Horned owls shake themselves to, croon from the trees their waking calls, one to the other just out of view. Their yellow eyes – amber disks as ancient as this place – glide over our watching, hatted heads, dismissing us outright: not prey. Not foe. No value at all. Mere lichen underfoot. hoo-h’HOO-hoo-hoo, the male calls, then swoops for an instant into sight: all wing, battleship-dazzled and silent, with talons that could slit a spine: flick-knives folded in. Blame December for the shiver you feel in his wake. They cry to one another from across the grove, a hiccup in each hoot as it snags in their throats. Call, response, and call again. Four lamp eyes blink and scan. Once the sun sets, the bald cypress trees will shadow into scherenschnitte pieced against the gold foil of the last light. Civil twilight, astronomers call it: the time before the hunt begins, and all creatures here below must shelter out of sight. Before it’s too late to get home.

The owls sense secrets:
where mice feed, hares hide, voles sleep.
All our sins laid bare.

Every hour’s theirs.


Katherine Gordon’s work has appeared in the US and the UK in journals including Arkansas Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Arcturus.


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