The Singer of Owls

“The Singer of Owls” by Margaret Atwood, from The Door

The singer of owls wandered off into the darkness.
Once more he had not won a prize.
It was like that at school.
He preferred dim corners, camouflaged himself
with the hair and ears of the others,
and thought about long vowels, and hunger,
and the bitterness of deep snow.
Such moods do not attract glitter.

What is it about me? he asked the shadows.
By this time they were shadows of trees.
Why have I wasted my lifeline?
I opened myself to your silences.
I allowed ruthlessness
and feathers to possess me.
I swallowed mice.
Now, when I’m at the end, and emptied
of words, and breathless,
you didn’t help me.

Wait, said the owl soundlessly.
Among us there are no prices.
You sang out of necessity,
as I do. You sang for me,
and my thicket, my moon, my lake.
Our song is a night song.
Few are awake.

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