Quills and Feathers

Screech Owl

All night each reedy whinny

from a bird no bigger than a heart

flies out of a tall black pine

and, in a breath, is taken away

by the stars. Yet, with small hope

from the center of darkness

it calls out again and again.

Screech-Owl, Eastern

Megascops asio

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Nebraska poet (and U.S. Poet Laureate) Ted Kooser knows that not all owls are the large "hoot" owls of popular iconography. Interestingly, the actual subject of two-thirds of the poem is the bird's sound, not the bird itself. And the bird per se of the second, final sentence remains a tenuous, eerie uncertainty, as the reader ponders the what and why of the bird's "small hope" and whether that "center of darkness" connotes more than the literal tree cavity from which it calls.

Bibliographical information

Author: Kooser, Ted (1939-)

Book: Delights and Shadows

Date: 2004

Publisher: Copper Canyon Press

Project Information

Genre: Poetry