Sunday night a widow in Winslow, Arkansas
came home to find an owl's fully detailed
profile printed on her patio door as clear
as a photographic plate, and it startled her—
wings spanned wide and outsized eyes,
the feathers almost impossibly articulate.
The silhouette, she said, was akin to a ghost,
though she was a disbeliever, and there
in the flickery kitchen florescence, she fell.
Living solitary, she lay there for a while,
dreaming the many trials of her earlier life,
including previous encounters with the floor.
Owls, especially horned ones, as the ears
identified hers, may wear a protective powder
on their feathers, and since their wondrous
eyes can't see glass, they'll do this on occasion,
crash haphazard, as if blind, and leave
an image so precise you expect it to scream.
It's best to string some beads or shells across
a wide window, but seldom are the birds
badly damaged. Even if stunned, casualties
are rare. The woman, however, bruised her
hip and was laid up a spell, at first bewildered,
then coming to terms with the flight
of a predator most likely out hunting until
that spectral threshold rushed up and struck
him down. The victim, Elise Pell, presently
recovering at her sister's condo, says she's
reading about all manner of creatures who fill
the air above us, ravenous and stealthy,
rumored messengers of death. She declares
such visitations can hardly be pure chance.
In fact, this incident has made her a believer,
as the face in the glass was ominously familiar,
though absent from our realm some seven years,
a husband with goggle eyes and a quick fist.
An animal, she says, is always just a beast,
but a human man can be a monster.
R. T. Smith
Birmingham Poetry Review