A Barred Owl

By Richard Wilbur b. 1921 Richard Wilbur
The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.

Richard Wilbur, "A Barred Owl" from Mayflies: New Poems and Translations. Copyright © 2000 by Richard Wilbur.  Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Source: Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (Harcourt Inc., 2000)

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

Poet Richard Wilbur b. 1921

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Youth, Nature, Animals

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Richard  Wilbur

Biography

Richard Wilbur “is a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox,” announced Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin when the poet succeeded Robert Penn Warren to become the second poet laureate of the United States. Wilbur won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his collection Things of This World: Poems in 1957 and a second Pulitzer for New and Collected Poems. He has won the Wallace Stevens . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Nature, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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.