Upon his death, the spirit
of my father came to rest
within a great horned owl and
owned the giant sycamore on Moonlight Road
where solitary as both man and bird
few recognized him but my knowing
it was Daddy swooping low across
my headlights late at night made driving
those deserted stretches in between
the flowing fenceposts easier somehow.
Not that it happened overnight,
but by successive stages. Creation
become evolution. First turned into
next. The smaller, greater. Take how
it was with him: at the outset just
a screech owl like the li’l hoot we’d chase
through river woods as kids and always
go too far; to find him slipped behind
us. Just like Daddy in his other life.
Later, I’d see him flying around
the mercury vapor lights in the barn
lot with a friend or two. Hear him carouse
till early morning. But it was only
his second childhood: a barn owl.
And though none had faith but me,
(and I quit telling folks soon
after his hollering that summer
woke up so many non-believers)
true salvation lay beyond all that;
him being fully fledged
for three years now. Bubo virginianus
haunts the road where as a man
he used to hunt the crimson cups
of wild ginger and calculate to
the hour when the first sun would touch spring
beauties along the dirt path below
the cliffs. Oh, there’s still some
stories about him from downriver.
Seems as how he spends a lot of time
spooking the weekend fishing
types that leave fast
food litter on the sandbars.
But most things haven’t changed:
it still being a point
of honor for him to show up
at what he called occasions:
anniversaries, birthdays, babies.
Christmas last year: I found him
waiting on the fence after midnight.
Eased the car over and let him know
I had time to talk. And we did.
The way we always talked on
long trips: saying nothing then
or now in this endless fall
of snow. Communion beyond creed
I think they say. Yet never understand
how in the soft light from each flake
I can be so sure it’s him. Make out
the comforting curve of his Roman nose,
the carefully trimmed line of his deadly
thin mustache. Watch the massive ears
beneath his owl tufts catch
every echo while his eyes pierce
the night and me. Telescope
now and then until both of us
settle for just being
here, listening to the sound
of a million snowflakes in free fall
making a white bridge of this
fence between us.