For Michael Hamburger

Barn owl
Daughter of snow,
Subject to the night wind,

Yet taking root
With her talons
In the rotten scab of walls,

Beak face
With round eyes,
Heart-rigid mask
Of feathers a white fire
That touches neither time nor space.

Coldly the wind blows
Against the old homestead,
In the yard pale folk,
Sledges, baggage, lamps covered with snow,

In the pots death,
In the pitchers poison,
The last will nailed to a post.

The hidden thing
Under the rocks’ claws,
The opening into night,
The terror of death
Thrust into flesh like stinging salt.

Let us go down
In the language of angels
To the broken bricks of Babel.

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