The 2River View 23.3 (Spring 2019)

Jeremy Voight

The Barred Owl’s Hiss

I’ve never heard Wilbur’s calm hooting
a mild inquisition into the next meal

that sooths the woken child, nor the frantic,
frenzied ruckus riled up mates make, but I’ve heard

the click of break and the harsh agitated exhale
from a lump of bird leaning over a stub-branch

and when my chest calmed knowing the source
I stood and regarded it as it regarded me

then a squirrel, then back to me, and as words
calm fears or increase them according to the source,

I felt I could be the next meal despite my size,
lifted in an indifferent claw. Come down,

come down, for me or the squirrel, you choose;
I’m supplicated; I’ll offer you my youngest child

who I held late into the night because she could
not sleep for the worries that worry her young mind,

and you may carry me as I carried her back to her bed,
her head lolling, feet supernaturally long and bent

over my elbow, oh owl, come down, come down,
the forest green, the forest brown, dew and no dew

all aspen and ash and evergreen and gravel and click
and shake of atavistic branches and the primal hiss.

The Size of Your Funeral will be Determined by the Weather

If you save blind orphans fleeing Syria.
If you carry the iconic two-year old
refugee from the sea. If you stuff the rag
in the bottle, hold it out to the flame.
If you quit your position of power,
because of mistakes made by the masses. 
If you take a bullet in the brain
so girls can learn. If you read or live
the headlines. If you hold the door
for a stranger with a flourish. If you vote
your conscience. If you do not vote.
If you nurse a rejected cat who later
tries to eat your leg in a paranoid frenzy.
If you find a way to make free what once
cost. If you paint. Are chief executive,
vice president, or the President yourself,
if you save the jumper, or are the one who jumps.

Jeremy Voigt lives in western Washington. His poems have appeared in Fifth Wednesday Journal, Gulf Coast, and other magazines. His manuscript, Estuary, has been a semi-finalist for the Dorset Prize, The Crab Orchard first book prize, and the Miller Williams prize. website

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