Thursday, October 21, 2021

Deconstructing an Owl Pellet


            Owl Pellet


Your artist’s fingers work

needle-nosed pliers into

brown fibers of an owl pellet.


You are at a table in

the natural history museum.

A girl sits with you, pellet


before her. Her brother stands

behind her. You tweezer out

a white toothpick of bone,


one end curved like

a fingernail. “And this is?”

“Shoulder?” “Yes.” You place it


with like bones. A dozen

piles on the table. The girl

probes the pellet. Finds what


might be a beach-worn shell.

Worries it free. Smiles. You

smile back. Pieces of mouse


assemble on the table. You

become the mouse, the owl

who ate it, the pellet


ejected to be found beneath

an oak tree. Such is

the power of love. The mouse – 


its fragments probed, grasped,

known – quivers to its feet,

scurries from the table.


You hear its quick heart,

sense behind you the deadly

hush of wings.



            I’m not sure who the “you” is in the poem. “Artist fingers” suggests it’s Kim, but I don’t recall her teaching or demonstrating at the Natural History Museum in Gainesville, though she has probed owl pellets, and she might be able to identify a mouse’s shoulder bone. Doesn’t matter. But then, as we approach the end of the poem, “You / become the mouse.” “You” also becomes me speaking the poem, and also you, the reader, becoming mouse and owl. As I watched this deconstruction of the owl pellet, I imagined the owl catching and eating the mouse, and the brief terror of the chase. The owl is now behind us, and I hope you enjoy the mouse’s terror.


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