Snowy Owl

I had no time to go out
into the forest, to hike ranges
of Old Growth. I had no days left
to pursue the rumor of a rare
raptor predicted to visit
our wildlands for hours
or a weekend. I turned off

the highway by the college
onto the Delphi road
where my next patient waited,
her patient husband counted hours,
when I saw amid a stand
of dark evergreen, the utterly white
form. It didn’t seem to be among

branches; it seemed superimposed.
Traffic flowing around me,
I drove on with only a glance,
yet the impression was vivid. Even
at eighty feet, maybe more,
I could determine the infinite eyes,
the arctic barbs of feathers.

I could feel in my own chest,
the labor of a long journey
and the winds yet to come. For months
when I turned onto the Delphi,
I glanced into that stand of Douglas fir.
But the owl returned
only in the startle of a dream,

so white the darkness around it
was endless. So still it became
a tatter in the veil. Ominous
but comforting. Even midweek during
ordinary duty – driving, bandaging,
soothing – the northland of a night
bird did not abandon me.

Lesson One in Chinese Character/s: a Bilinguacultural Poem about Heart
Choosing My Afterlife