William Snyder Jr.

About Owls, the Bones of Mice, and the Work of Assembly

                                                  To Sonja Flancher

My student, Sonja, wrote a poem, a good one,
she and her father watching birds. They see
an owl, she writes, at dusk, and the poem
is about the wings, the silhouettes of wings,
feathers and flying. It needs work, the poem,
but much is there—the wonder, the delight in
wild hearts beating—the owl’s, Sonja’s, her
father’s. So, honest, I told her, it was not
on purpose, not by plan, that yesterday, I too
saw an owl. Two owls. It was close to dark,
and on the path by the Red—prairie scrub
and craggy elms—and there they were,
talking together, one low voice, one high,
hooooooo, hoo, hoo, and they were so close—
grey-brown feathers, big round faces, tufts
like ears or horns, and behind them, a dusky
gray-glowing eastern sky. I imagined their
big round eyes as they watched me as I
walked, as I stopped to look, to listen—they’d
probably heard me leave the house, their ears
so fine. Oh yes—wonder, thrill, just like
Sonja’s, her Dad’s. Just like our class too—
wise young owls. And me. I read that
you can poke amongst an owl’s old pellets
and find, and even assemble, the bones
of mice, whole little skeletons there, like ghosts
among the leaves and twigs. Though I prefer
our kind of poking—what we do, students
and I, sorting through our words and lines
and stanza breaks—papery stuff—like bones,
and yes, hard sometimes, even brittle,
but rich in wonder, and rich with our own
wild hearts, page after boney page.

William Snyder has published poems in many literary journals. He was the co-winner of the 2001 Grolier Poetry Prize; The CONSEQUENCE Prize in Poetry, 2013; the 2015 Claire Keyes Poetry Prize; Tulip Tree Publishing Stories That Need To Be Told 2019 Merit Prize for Humor; and Encircle Publications 2019 Chapbook Contest. He has retired from teaching writing and literature at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN. 

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