Snowy Owl Near Ocean Shores

By Duane Niatum b. 1938 Duane Niatum
A castaway blown south from the arctic tundra
sits on a stump in an abandoned farmer’s field.
Beyond the dunes cattails toss and bend as snappy
as the surf, rushing and crashing down the jetty.

His head a swivel of round glances,
his eyes a deeper yellow than the winter sun,
he wonders if the spot two hundred feet away
is a mouse on the crawl from mud hole
to deer-grass patch.

An hour of wind and sleet whips the air,
nothing darts or passes but the river underground.
A North Pole creature shows us how to last.
The wind ruffles his feathers from crown to claw

while he gazes into zeroes the salt-slick rain.
As a double-rainbow before us arcs
sky and owl, we leave him surrendering
to the echo of his white refrain.

Duane Niatum, “Snowy Owl Near Ocean Shores.” Copyright © by Duane Niatum. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: Drawings of the Song Animals (Holy Cow! Press, 1996)

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Poet Duane Niatum b. 1938

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Animals

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Duane  Niatum

Biography

Poet, fiction writer, playwright, and editor Duane Niatum has been has been writing poems, stories and essays for over 50 years. Born Duane McGinness in Seattle, he adopted the name of one of his S’Klallam tribal ancestors early in his career as a poet. After his parents’ divorce when he was four, he studied S’Klallam tribal ways with his maternal grandfather. At age 17, Niatum joined the Navy and was stationed in Japan. He . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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