Snowy Owl

Ten years old, I climbed stone fences,
side-stepped down hills rough with ice.
Sparrows moved in the branches of pines
but I was after the rare bird, ghost owl
blown off course by a storm.

I tell you this so you will know me,
a Mohawk Valley girl, scientist's daughter
hungry for meaning, saddened
by the flight of galaxies,
how they rush away from us, red-shifting
through a lace of equations.

And the crystalline structure of snow,
invisible in those mounds and drifts,
wind off the frozen river lifting
a powdery dazzle. I wanted to enter
everything that could be seen and touched.

I do not know if I found him.
What comes back to me is the looking
hedge roses, their canes black,
textures of birch and alder,
cattails at the edge of the marsh.

I wish I could conjure the living bird,
offer you cruel beak and sky-soaked eyes,
predator angel, white wings raised.

But this late, among seasonless hills,
their tan flanks clothed in grass and scrub,
my life more than half over,
I bring only the luminous surface
of things. That, and the hunger.

Poems by Sharon Fain:

Snowy Owl
Getting It Right
A Birth
Waiting for the Bear
Screen Saver
Losing the Drought
Isla Mujeres: Weeks Before the Breakdown
On Hearing Jack Gilbert Talk About Death
One Month at Casa Sotovento
Out on the Deck at Sirens
Waiting to Hear About the Biopsy
Elvis at Chiang Mai
High Desert
Letters From Sarajevo
On Seeing the Place Where I First Made Love

TIMES TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets