A Ball of Fluff, October
A wavering call penetrates the dark street, just at the edge
of hearing. We're returning from an evening walk,
two houses from home. Just another evening walk,
like every other. But listen. The call again.
Low and eerie. We've seen the usual houses
and stores, the diamond-studded spiders in orange confetti
at Wayson's jewelry on Kirchivel. The sidewalks, wet
and covered with small ponds, cradled by leaves, colors
gone now in darkness, visible, a bit, in pools
of lamplight. The branches, drooping with wet leaves, dimly bright
and eerie, dripping. The pumpkins everywhere, wadded
fake spider webs and witches. But that strange quaver.
Maybe a recording to set the children worrying
a little, that weeping call, so soft, yet spooky, enigmatic. We pause,
look up. A lump, a ball of fluff, sits on a branch above us.
A flashlight from your pocket, a pair of binoculars from mine,
and we see a flat face, two round eyes. I grab your hand
and squeeze. Small body, like a robin,
only squarer. Silent now, in the flashlight
glare, a screech owl looks back as us. It's our first
screech owl, here, and a touch of wildness and mystery. It stares.
And stares. Then turns and flutters, almost bat-like, back
into the night. We want to follow, but it's gone. We frown
at each other, then leap up and down, like fools
or children, laughing.
Mary Stebbins Taitt
For Keith on his birthday and for the screech owl, may it remain safe and healthy and without too much flashlight in the face