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Owl and Flock

by Mark Rudman

for Chiara

The owl implanted on the American dollar bill
pointed out yesterday afternoon by my son,
with my lost two-volume OED magnifying glass;
and Owl, resplendent in the nest you built
out of guilt at uttering a cruel crack worthy
of censorious parents
that I paid the equivalent of a modest
dinner for two, or two pairs of jeans, or
the cost of an orchestra seat to the—what was it?—
of Utopia, for my tiny, sage and invaluable
owl, carved by an anonymous artist from the turquoise lava
unique to Dominican Republic;
ancient inanimate I rescued from desuetude;
Buddha belly I uncovered flat on his back
in that desolate and squeaky drawer pushed
out of the way, flush against the wall
while the upscale jewelry store’s glittering showcases
featured ornaments were mostly disfigured
by indecisive hands.  It’s a fabled
jewelry store.  Tourists flock to it
like church.  Or for the AC. 
Or to escape the squalor of Santo Domingo proper.
One person attended three glass cases.
Buddha bellied, pigeon toed, this owl is mad old:
his perfection accidental in a world
where exceptions are the inevitable
rule and measure—immeasurable, like the great—
as far as it went—play we can cherish but not
quite evaluate, like the love parents
pass on indirectly when for the treasure hunt
they place each special bauble
in the place most likely to invite—delight.
Or the thought she left in my ear:
that everything is listening,
which brought the silence I sought,
and no incessant drilling mechanic screech
sounded out the brightened birdsongs that delight the evening—
starlings and swallows I can’t locate
no matter how far I lean out window, the occasion
being return and the intervals alone
worth somewhere near what the semi-disappeared owl cost
once he was dusted off
outside the minus sphere of his inherited space.


Mark Rudman recently completed Sundays on the Phone, the fifth volume of his Rider Quintet. A selection from the five books, The Motel En Route to Life Out There, was released in 2008 by Salt Publishing. The Book of Samuel: Essays on Poetry and Imagination was published this year by Northwestern University Press. He is currently translating Aleksandr Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. (3/2009)

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