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The Breath of Looking


The great horned owl underfeather you found
suspended on brome teaches you about the near
imperceptibility of grief. About thinness.
How light, hardly snared by down,
filters through and changes just-so
and so grief wears you, makes
you its slight shadow.


The great horned owl underfeather teaches you
about the eyes of someone you long for. How if they could
stroke you, they would be as graceful as the almost
weightless. How if you could look at the sky
through them, you would feel smaller,
but not less.


The great horned owl teaches you that the knack
for flight has something to do with silence. Its wings polish
planes of air; distance shimmers in their wake. In the after-
weep hiccoughing hearts of poplar leaves, how
to feel the silk breath
of looking.

© Sheri Benning
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
From Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books)

Photo Credit:

Small white feather caught on dry grass stalk. Steven Schwartzman photo.

Did you know ..

A great horned owl can hear the rustle of a mouse running through leaves from 75 yards away. Comb-like fringes on the leading edge of the owl’s wings reduce the noise of flight, allowing it to swoop down on its prey in silence.

Author: Sheri Benning

Sheri Benning’s fourth poetry collection, Field Requiem, is forthcoming with Carcanet Press. Poems from Field Requiem have appeared, or will appear, in The Paris Review, The Times Literary Supplement, P.N. Review, Prairie Fire and Grain. Her previous collections include The Season’s Vagrant Light: New and Selected Poems (Carcanet Press), Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books) and Earth After Rain (Thistledown Press).

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