the owl of love

Posted by on December 1, 2010

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The Owl of Love

From the album The Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton, by the Clogs

I am the owl, the owl of love.
At night, I suck it in, I suck it in.
By the day, the startled morn,
I breathe it out again.
Alone on the branch, the owl of love,
with the stars and the moon
and the moon over cloud.
I take in the souls of the minds of the world
and sift out the weeds from the few.
Breathing it in, breathing it out,
over again and again and again.
I am speckled like the hare,
I may not breathe again.
Alone on a branch, holding it in,
I sift through the minds and the souls of the world.
I am shattered by the calm.
I may not breathe again.

* * *
These are song lyrics by the Clogs. I hesitate to post song lyrics in place of a poem, as if they are the same thing. I suspect that there is an inherent bias in encountering poetic words in the form of a beautiful song before you read them alone on a page, without music. In The Once and Future King, by T.H. White, Lancelot, on one of his many quests, performs a miracle by saving a maiden out of an enchanted pot of boiling water. Later, when he is introduced to the girl again more formally, it says, “Lancelot, perhaps slightly biased by having first met her with no clothes on, thought that Elaine was the most beautiful girl he had seen, except Guenevere.” I imagine that song lyrics are a little like that. As far as I can tell, these lyrics stand alone as a poem, but I am biased since I encountered them first–clothed, actually–as a beautiful song. Here’s a link to what it sounds like, in all its unearthly beauty.

I identify with the song and at first was not sure why. After recirculating in the gurgling waters of this album–and especially this song– many times in the last month or so, I’ve grown to love the idea of this lone, breathing owl, and have gradually been fleshing out an image of this lovable owl of love in my mind’s eye. In my picture, she represents the life of emotional integrity, of someone who lets emotions flow freely, in and out. The emotions come and go, like breath, never blocked, never stuffed or suppressed. But sometimes the tender creature is tempted to stop the flow and hold its breath, because it is hard to keep breathing emotions in and out, in and out. It is much easier to block and resist.

But at the break of day, the owl suddenly finds that she can breath again, and if she goes on breathing, then all will be expelled and will normalize once more. I love this idea.

This is all I have to say today. I actually started writing this post last week–before Thanksgiving— which is why it sounds slightly more clear then anything I could possibly have written today, since I was trapped inside with my two girls all day with ceaseless snow blowing horizontally. As usual (I know this is getting old) I had more ideas that I was going to connect to this owl song, but today I forfeit. Progress, not perfection, right? Esme was hogging the computer most of the day watching Christmas videos because I ran out of ideas for how to spend the slowly passing time. Maybe one day I will be able to really develop an idea in writing–like really, really develop it–when I am not doing all this other stuff, like hosting seven adults and three children for Thanksgiving, and refereeing serial property disputes over “Littlest Pet Shop” figurines, randomly creating an illustrated copy of a chart on kinosis in water colors alongside my four year-old because she wants me to draw and paint with her, and abdicating use of the computer so that she can watch Christmas Classics, Volume I to wile away the long afternoon, knowing that she will not find a way to wile it away if I am using the computer for anything that takes concentration. But until then I can at least stick to the humble project of getting us all out of the house on bleary winter days once in a while, and posting half-warmed Thanksgiving leftovers to my blog.

Poetry Wednesday

  1. melanie
    December 2, 2010

    i didn't understand this song before now. i'm glad i have you for a translator.