“Who?” Owl asked the forest,

“Who, who?” 

He perched on broken bark

knotted branch leaning

from thickened black trunk.

Owl blinked,


Eyes rounded ‘gainst the shadowed moon,

pooled with torment.


The nocturnal landscape did not answer.

Could not.

Chose not?

“Who?!” Shrieked Owl,

a sudden twist of the ruffled neck,


Another sharp twist.

Eyes wide, “Who?”

The answer did not come.

Anxiety draped over

the wooded canopy.

Aardvark looked away, paling. 

Only Cricket dared reply:


unabashed, heartless. 


Softer now.


Hyena paused ‘neath Owl’s tree,

nose pointed up at the death-lit sky,

tail tucked between legs.

He crept into brush,

whimper escaping his throat. 


A final statement.

The closing remark. 

Purposeful punctuation. 

And in the distance,

Woman wept.  

Among the Kikuyu of Kenya, it was believed that owls were harbingers of death. If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die. In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death. The belief is widespread even today.


2 responses to “The Owl”

  1. Pauline Njeri Avatar
    Pauline Njeri

    This is so true…I am a Kikuyu and my grandma has been telling me about the owls and their bad omen etc…did you live among the Kikuyu or its just a story you read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barbara Powell, Poet Avatar

      I’ve read about the omen and the Kikuyu and was so struck by it. This poem emerged. Thank you for reading ♥️


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