“Time Stirs with Her Slow Spoon”

By , September 27, 2011

Tonight is the new moon. If you’re reading Mary Oliver’s Twelve Moons as a lunar calendar with me this year, it’s time for another poem, Bone Poem.

As you probably know, Ms. Oliver is writing about castings, the pellets of indigestible bone fragments, hair, and other byproducts of the animals carnivorous birds, particularly owls, eat. The birds eat their prey whole, and the detritus becomes compressed into these dry pellets, which are regurgitated later.

We have a lot of owls in the area, although not many on our side of the ridge. We find castings in the forest now and then. We have broken them open to see if we can identify the prey, mostly voles, mice, or squirrels. We’ve seen these for sale as an educational tool. They’re fascinating, although not the subject that lends itself obviously to poetry. Leave it to Mary Oliver to manage it, though. I particularly like the line “Where time stirs with her slow spoon.” This seems like a very appropriate poem for autumn.

On the last night of our recent trip, two great horned owls sat in the trees near our tent, calling. At times a third owl may have joined in, as the call and response turned to interrupting “talk over.”

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