In February Mark began to grow a beak.
Nose and jaw meshed, hardening,
orbits expanded to the two discs of a face.
Somehow his eyes deepened and his head learnt
to turn in ever increasing arcs:
He was the first to go. Then Aled,
breath misting on the sight of his shock-white plumage
one evening in the mirror,
flapped himself through the bathroom window
and returned by hag-light with a throat full of vole.
Two weeks later I found Sam and Marie
preening each other in my hay-loft,
heard the low hooting and the scuffle of sharp feet.
I knew it. My neighbours were turning into owls.
At first I thought nothing of it, except that my barns
stank of the cold sweat of mice each morning,
I grew used to the ghost of wings crossing my windows,
eyes gliding in the woods after dark.
Then solitary populations retreated to their attics
and my street became a gust of boarded doorways,
gales hunted over the empty fields.
Now each dusk I watch them rise
through the skeletons of the old roofs and listen
to tufted ears pricking the silence. In winter
the houses rise windowless into a blear sky,
an owls’ citadel of rafters and roosts.
And each night I sit under the last lamp in the house
hearing the clink and rasp of their claws at the slate,
each night I dream of snow under a huge moon,
my shadow broad and beating it like down.