Fable Down to One Jar Full of Feathers, a Murder, Some Murmuring
of What Shouldnt Have to Die to Expect to Resurrect
Unless. There was an owl down on the banks of a certain river.
All summer it decayed, all but that curious call. All who listened
mistook it for the organ music of mystery radio dramas. They woke
briefly and then turned to their living. All summer it spoke,
and from where they stood--the boy, the girl who had seen
its breathing, the hushed rise where it once lifted soundlessly,
now perceptible and laborious, as if flight were a hoisting of the dead weight
of one body exerted by a tired body--it seemed terribly unreal.
The girl had thrown the rock partially just to make it real.
The girl had thrown the rock hard and the quiet strike, the true damage,
surprised her. She meant to aim well, she had meant, in some other place
and time, to be willing to bring the owl down and her arm remembered that brutal wish
and the girl tried to withdraw the arc of the throw, the trueness.
She felt the rock hit as if it had never left her hand, and her hand felt
the exact cushion of body to stone and the girl would own
that moment for always. Owl body. Stone hand. The owls grace re-translated
from the floating mass of one language into the heavy Slavic of another.
The owl took forever to die and when it finally did, its accusations sounded
to the girl like hope, and its accusations sounded and sounded for weeks after,
so that the hollow in the middle of some nights shook with that voice.
The river shone messages to the owl in the blinking of several stars
and the boy, a little older now, thought he could decipher the code.
The girl couldnt understand. The owls cries only sounding like blame to her.
The lights on the river flashed bright with regrets and the boy seemed now
to have turned away from her, so that all she had: the memory of that blow,
she carried alone. What she couldnt forget: the honor of living on the inside
of the boys life, where he shared what he carried in his pocket with her: the hard
swiped from the corner store, the spent shell found outside a robbed bank, the inky
shapes he stamped on his hand, on hers, the minnows that died so that he might
teach the girl to fish. That the boys face held the regal secrecy, the wisdom
and taloned-cruelty of owls. That what the girl loved so much
and what she took aim at was the same deep-deep-alone in the owl and the boy
who could go well-deep inside himself and leave the girl in the shushed heft
of an owls intent to fly. That what the girl took aim at and loved so much
was that portable solitude of both boy and owl and the feathery rush
of proximity. That what she loved too, in both boy and owl was the rivery reflection
of her own loneliness in them. What the boy couldnt know
was just how she had loved the owl, had waited some nights
alone in the night terror of the forest for the quiet
that could only mean owls flight. But the boy did know what it meant
to fear what is loved so much that it could take so much less than
a thrown stone or a single killing minute to bring it down.