A barred owl hunches in the snowbound oak
listening for prey. Hidden beneath,
a heedless mouse skitters its maze of tunnels,
audible under the heavy cloak
but out of reach. Hunger is immaterial
to the outcome when the snow’s this deep.
Impossible, the leap, the plunge, the thrust,
the clench of talons, their single-minded burial
in flesh. There’s nothing but the falling dusk,
and night ahead, hours more of hunger,
daybreak, sleep, another famished night.
At the last there’s nothing but the husk
desire left behind. The owl must eat
or starve, float silent as a snowflake
over fields or save its strength in vigil.
Oh life, your soft feathers fray, your wingbeats
weaken. Hoard your warmth. The dark art
of dwindling is the birthright of the heart.