1901: The Interpretation of Owls

(Four owls on a branch, and one on its own, all smoking long churchwarden clay pipes, and listening to the music of a songbird in front of a giant moon – like five patients waiting for wise Dr Freud.)


The First

Below me is a field
alive with khaki mice
not expecting to be killed.

Something else has risen,
so I keep one eye closed,
think back, and listen.


The Second

With most efficient clay,
and smartest plumage, I
will be ready for the day,

you miserable things.
Our tree may be scarred
but that young flapper sings.


The Third

I will not be swallowed
by light. My churchwarden,
elongated and hollowed

to amplify my dreaming
truths, remains silent
about all the screaming.


The Fourth

I’ve given up, except
to say: your call.
Yes, my pipe has drooped.

I would confess to nights
of hooting wild, but not
while she hits such heights.


The Fifth

No room on the branch,
yet I can see what they
and she cannot, the launch

of a future into your blue
unknowing. Of all that’s yet
to come. To it, to you.




John Greening: A Bridport Prize and Cholmondeley winner with over twenty collections, including The Silence (Carcanet Press ) and the collaboration a Post Card to. He has edited Grigson, Blunden and Crichton Smith, plus several anthologies, and his collected poetry essays,Vapour Trails.  Website: www.johngreening.co.uk

Note: After an untitled picture drawn and painted by my grandfather, Clarence Greening in 1901.