The owls

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.

© Meirion Jordan