'And when the owl stirred, a fine dust fell from its wings'
In many cultural traditions, an encounter with an owl at night is an ominous sign. But here, in a poem by recent Shelley Memorial Award winner, Arthur Sze, (first published in 1982), there is a wonderful transformation from the purple of dusk to the green of dawn that captures a moment of pure optimism in this strange and decidedly magical nocturnal encounter between the poet and an owl.
by Arthur Sze
The path was purple in the dusk.
I saw an owl, perched,
on a branch.
And when the owl stirred, a fine dust
fell from its wings. I was
silent then. And felt
the owl quaver. And at dawn, waking,
the path was green in the
American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2021 by Arthur Sze, 'The Owl' from The Glass Constellation: New and Collected Poems, (Copper Canyon 2021). Poem reprinted by permission of Permissions Company, LLC and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2021 by the Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.