Stephen Massimilla

Night Owl

Their autumn now an elder just departed,

the mice fly out like leaves in whirling gusts

and spiral underground. Above, one trusts

the sky, recircling to where it had started

to flee, past starry flakes that do not cease

to fall, but spin and scribble in their bliss.

There, a speck, but in vicious white increase,

the night owl shows the earth what heaven is,

its plumes in flurries rippling crease on crease

but whirring down to one half-muffled hiss.

This fugitive, swung up into claw,

skims the brush and trees, flicks back, is gone:

a spark returned to ash. From mountain heights

and down through sheets and screes of mist, the lone

bird strobes and reappears, barely alights

beside the ghost of a knoll. It turns—night’s flaw—

the cloud-globe of its head, and thereupon

(parenthesized upon an ancient bowl

faintly brushed with gray), reveals a Chinese face

which turns back, disappears, bears scarce a trace

among the snow-capped boughs that map the whole.