War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

owls (from May Day)


I had to walk it out. all of it. again. the dark. the winter set in. you so far away. J fragile as new snowdrops, the winter aconites that blast through my soil. now snow and ice have disappeared. the relentless west coast rains set in.

I took J home. built a fire. put him to bed. after I fed him. (listen M, promise me you won’t talk about how he is to anyone. I shouldn’t have told you. he’s scared it might bar any chance of returning. with his men. to Afghanistan. next year.)

I remembered you told me that when the boys hit the mess, they turn up their noses at prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, the works. prefer grilled cheese sandwiches with ketchup instead. the taste of home. so I grilled him a pair. white bread. doused it with Heinz 57, served it with chips. it did the trick. so it seems. he let me tuck him in. read a story out loud. Farley Mowat. about an owl. as a pet. simpler times. no war. no injury. no wilful death. a book my grandmother gave me when I was a kid.

“the Afghans have a story,” J said as I picked up the book, “about owls giving man fire, and man giving them feathers.” “that’s seems a fair exchange,” I smiled and started reading. it did the trick. five pages in, he slept.

so I covered him with an extra blanket. put the dog on the bed, a CD of Chopin on repeat. grabbed raingear. hiking boots. my walking stick from Spain. slipped quietly out of the house. headed to Witty’s Lagoon. late afternoon. wanted to walk through the woods. wanted to see what record rains would do to Sitting Lady Falls. wanted to clear my head.

dusk. an hour max. to walk to there and back. the woods black already. I followed the shore. crossed slippery wooden bridges, creeks that usually trickle. wild. struggling. devouring soil like Goya’s Saturn. eroding banks. exposing roots. white water. huge rush. afraid a Douglas fir, a giant cedar might crash any second, I ran the path. towards the falls.

ten minutes away. giant trucks. earthquake. jet engine takeoff. louder and louder big falling water. the closer I got. too loud to hear the swans, the ducks on the lagoon’s surface. brown high waters, all foamy. stirred up.

I ran the steps up. to the top. looked out at the Lady. her legs. her breasts. her arms. her head. covered with a white water burka.

almost dark. the rain beating my face. I stayed for just a few minutes. thought about running up to the main road. take the safe way home.

but I heard a pair of owls. partying in the rain. an invitation I couldn’t refuse. their hoot hooty hoot made me want to put on my flamenco shoes. I crossed the ridge. ran back to the lagoon’s edge. only grey light off water, that couple of crazy owly- birds, to guide me.

slip and slid through puddles, back across the creeks and bridges. all the way home. their owl song. singing in my head.

and M. I’ll take you there. next year. Sitting Lady Falls in wet winter. when Panjawaii’s dust is washed for good from your fingers. and you can walk anywhere. lift your head. without fear of IEDs, RPGs, AKs, ambush. and we’ll search for owls. high in the tree tops. listen for them. maybe even catch a glimpse of them. glossy soft feathers. beaking and birdying all night long. next year M. I’ll take you there.

if we’re some of the lucky ones.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled owls (from May Day). It was posted here on January 07, 2009.


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