An Owl

By David Bottoms b. 1949 David Bottoms
Twice through my bedroom window
I’ve seen the horned owl drop from the oaks to panic   
the rabbit in my neighbor’s backyard.
Last night he paced for an hour across the top   
of the cage, scrutinizing
the can of water, the mound of pellets,
turning his genius to the riddle
of the wire, while under him
the rabbit balled like a fat carnation in the wind.

Both of the terriers yapped from their porch   
but the owl never flinched, pacing,
clawing the wire, spreading wings like a gray cape,   
leaping, straining to lift the whole cage,
and the cage rocking
on its stilts, settling, and rocking again,
until he settled with it, paused,
and returned to a thought.

And the rabbit, ignorant of mercy,   
curled on itself in that white drift   
of feathers?

Wait, three years and I haven’t escaped the child   
I saw at Northside the night   
my daughter was born,

a little brown sack of twigs
curled under glass, eyes bulging,
trembling in the monitors,
and the nurses
rolling the newborns out to nurse,
and the shadows sweeping the nursery.

David Bottoms, “An Owl” from Vagrant Grace. Copyright © 1999 by David Bottoms. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271,

Source: Vagrant Grace: Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1999)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet David Bottoms b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Birth & Birthdays, Animals, Living, Nature

 David  Bottoms


David Bottoms was born in Canton, Georgia in 1949. He earned an MA from the University of West Georgia and a PhD from Florida State University. In 1979, Bottoms won the prestigious Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets for his collection Shooting Rats at the Bibb County Dump. Robert Penn Warren, the contest’s judge, described Bottoms as “a strong poet, and much of his strength emerges from the fact that he is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Birth & Birthdays, Animals, Living, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.