Tawny Owl in Fog
There it is again – that willowed cry
that takes me from myself, lifts my skin,
asks the white breath inside me
to ﬂoat a while into the wood.
Behind me, the sound of twigs
snapping and hares ambling
over the wet leaves, and again,
insistently, the owl uncurls its sound
through the fog and my body
answers – between each tree
the shattered water is lilting:
it makes its own stillness, its own
quiet land to move through.
And the night is so cold it hurts
my skin. My ﬁngers are all bone.
I rub the cold between them
and cannot feel it. And the owl
again, its feathers stroking
the skin of my neck: I can feel
myself lifted out of the wood,
taken home over the snow-peaked
forests of Scandinavia, the dark
rolling sea. And in the lamplight,
each black branch is hung
with jewels of half-frozen water.
My breath ﬂoats off into the fog,
joins it in the wood – I imagine
the owl’s tunnel of song,
and then the fog is the breath
of all the plants and damp trees,
the hares, the dark soil. And again,
I hear it. Everything is breathing.
doxology (at the foot of a holly tree)
With a lifted hand, I touch the thing
to be praised – run my ﬁngers along
the sallow trunk, its scars and warts
of wood – then the spiked caution
of leaves. I praise the tendency
of berries to hide amid spines,
as though each must be
suffered for. But to my palm,
the whole tree is a system, poised
and anxious – crossed branches
meshed around an inner electrode.
I praise the holly: its containment
of pain, its held capacity for violence.
It is completely still – I approach slowly
and it allows me, does not hum its anger
or lash in the wind. But lifting a hand
to the network of leaves, a spark
of electricity shoots like a nerve-signal
and I pull back. A warning
has been issued like a tendril
from the hurt god of the tree.
It tells me that the core, its white
centre and red fruit, are not made
for humans, but for other, smaller things.
Seán Hewitt‘s poetry has been published in POETRY, The Poetry Review, and The New Statesman, amongst others. He won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2016.