Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Elegy with Barred Owl
for Claudia Emerson

It’s hard to be sure. The shock of it—
pure size alone enough to stun—

a smooth shape shifting in August heat.
The barred owl breaks stillness,

lifts into the invasive, elegant bamboo
mantling our pond, then lofts higher

onto the walnut tree’s limb, stopping
there, perfectly obvious now,

its back turned on our small party.
With a shrug, the owl wheels, eyes us,

its face disc-flat, blank as effigy, as mere
portrait. In its talons, a common goldfish.

We regard this small drama with awe,
some laughter, rue, but your face,

my friend, is the one I watch.
After months of wasting illness—

diagnosis scans scars infusions
hair loss metastasis hope

anger anger anger—
this small destruction

is an early and approximate grief,
a familiar beast, whose news is,

Yes, this—
all this—and more.  

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