Owl Pellet

By Erica Funkhouser

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I was crossing the field—that is all—
longing for nothing more than a color,
when I found the owl's pellet
coiled in the grass.
Beneath the glistening veil of mucus,
a mass of conflicting ingredients:
squirrel fur, rabbit hip,
feather of flicker and jay.
Farther in, I came upon crow quills
splintered and wrapped into balls,
tidy parcels of polished bone,
a frog's spotted fingers.

It would almost be better to be young again,
the multiple longings
obscuring any need for detail,
but the ripening pellet
demands exploration:
pelt and stuffing enough to knit nothing,
remnant of mole-tail, extruded ear,
the skull not yet skilled
at dodging or distance,
a pulsating grub embedded in beak.

It is never too late for rhapsody.
A kiss says nothing compared to this.
Joined hands? Sweat on the belly?
Lips, genitals—all of them edible.
Where inside does the owl assemble
these bundles of bone and fur?
How wide must she open her throat
to disgorge them?

Anyone can capture the fur standing on end
as small claws slip away from the glassy earth.
Anyone can feed on the instant of pleasure
that makes an animal sweet and defenseless.
No one but the owl makes use of every scrap,
licking beauty back into the coarse remains
before delivering them here so openly
at the feet of anyone crossing.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1992/11/owl-pellet/305840/